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Cricket | International

Australia drop Johnson for SL test



Australia have dropped Mitchell Johnson for the first test against Sri Lanka and selected just three seamers for the match on what is expected to be a lively wicket at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart this week.

Spinner Nathan Lyon was retained in the side announced by skipper Michael Clarke on Thursday, with Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc and Ben Hilfenhaus making up the pace bowling unit for the match.

Left-armer Johnson, the 2009 ICC Cricketer of the Year, played his first test in a year in the 309-run defeat to South Africa in Perth last week but was named 12th man for the Hobart test, which begins on Friday.

"Obviously a tough selection getting 12 down to 11, especially with the way that Mitchell bowled in Perth, but this is the team we've selected for this test match," Clarke to a news conference.

"At the end of the day you've got to do what's best for the Australian team, you have to pick the best 11 players to help you win the test match.

"It's a nice problem to have when you've got 12 players that really want to play and have performed well, but unfortunately someone has to miss.

"Mitchell will be fine, he'll have to work hard and wait for another opportunity and try to grab it with both hands."

Tasmanian Hilfenhaus and Siddle were recalled after being rested for the third test against the Proteas, while Starc gets his reward for his performance in Perth, where he took 6-154.

Clarke said the inclusion of 22-year-old Starc was based on the requirements of the Hobart test alone, not an attempt to give him a good run before back-to-back Ashes series against England next year.

"For me, I'm not looking at the Ashes at all. The reason that Starc is there is because he's been next in line in the queue for a while," Clarke said.

"He's performed really well in the shorter form of the game for Australia. He got one test in Perth and got six-for and 70-odd with the bat so that's not a bad start as well."

POST PONTING

Clarke also confirmed that Australia had re-jigged their batting order after the retirement of Ricky Ponting following the Perth test against South Africa.

Former opener Shane Watson will move down the order from three to four, allowing recalled lefthander Phil Hughes to slot in behind the opening partnership, where he has also played most of his first class cricket.

"The strength and advantage we now have in our top four is that all four have opened the batting for Australia," said Clarke.

"So against the new ball they will be very well suited ... I believe that if we lose early wickets we're very capable against the new ball, which is a real positive."

Sri Lanka have never won a test in Australia but the hosts lost on their last visit to Hobart, falling to New Zealand on home soil for the first time in a quarter of a century last year.

The Australians face the tourists in two further tests in Melbourne from December 26 and Sydney from January 3.

TEAM: Michael Clarke (captain), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, Mike Hussey, Matthew Wade, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Ben Hilfenhaus, Nathan Lyon.

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