Associated Press

Sydney, January 1:

Australian selectors changed a winning combination, dropping fast bowler Michael Kasprowicz and Darren Lehmann for legspinner Stuart MacGill and rookie allrounder Shane Watson for the third cricket Test against an injury-depleted Pakistan.

Australian captain Ricky Ponting announced the starting XI on Saturday, on the eve of the Sydney Cricket Ground match. The Australians have an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the series and are changing a lineup that has won four consecutive matches. Pakistan faces a different selection dilemma because it has only 13 fit players. Yousuf Youhana will captain Pakistan again after regular skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq was ruled out with a lingering back problem. Abdul Razzaq, still suffering from dizziness that forced him into hospital during the second Test match, has joined fast bowler Mohammad Sami (heel) and allrounder Shoaib Malik (hand) on the list of players sidelined since Melbourne.

“We have to replace four players. Inzamam is not fit, still. Razzaq is not fit,” Youhana said. “There’ll be a lot of changes in the team.” Most question marks are over who will partner Shoaib Akhtar with the new ball in the absence of Sami and who will come in as the allrounder. None of Australia’s changes were injury enforced, with Ponting saying the selections were based on balance.

Kasprowicz has been part of a three-pronged pace attack for series wins against Sri Lanka, India and New Zealand and helped Australia to an unbeatable 2-0 lead in this series.

But the big paceman has been overlooked because the SCG pitch favours spin and MacGill can work in tandem with first-choice legspinner Shane Warne, while Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie take the new ball. Lehmann has been struggling for form, although Ponting said being dropped here didn’t spell the end for the veteran batsman’s career and that 23-year-old Watson had been included as a back-up bowling option.

Ponting said despite having the series wrapped up, his Australians weren’t likely to give struggling Pakistan any breaks. “We don’t feel they’ve played well enough to win a game and we don’t want to let them in now,” added Ponting. “I hope they’re competitive. They’ve been competitive at different times in the first two games but haven’t been able to maintain it, and that’s been the difference.”

One-day specialist Shahid Afridi is a candidate to come into Pakistan’s starting lineup to add some experience. He’s only played 14 Tests averaging 32.5 and with 21 wickets but has figured in almost 200 limited-overs internationals. Besides Akhtar and legspinner Danish Kaneria, Pakistan’s bowling options include Mohammad Khalil, who was wicketless on debut in Perth; 19-year-old Riaz Afridi, who made his debut against Sri Lanka in October, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, who took three wickets against Sri Lanka in Karachi; and untested Mohammad Asif.

Youhana said Pakistan would be determined to finish with a win, regardless of who was in the starting lineup.