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Stars align for sell-out Manuka showdown

Date

Lee Gaskin

Michael Clarke (R) and Shane Watson will lead a strong Australian team in Canberra.

Michael Clarke (R) and Shane Watson will lead a strong Australian team in Canberra. Photo: IAN KINGTON

A near full-strength national side will converge on Canberra for the city's inaugural visit by the Australian team on Wednesday.

With the exception of injured opener David Warner, Cricket Australia has kept its word and ensured the full house at Manuka Oval will be treated to the premier limited-overs players in the country.

Captain Michael Clarke leads a 13-man squad featuring returning all-rounder Shane Watson, emerging paceman Mitchell Starc and million-dollar man Glenn Maxwell for Wednesday's one-day international against the West Indies.

There were fears the historic match, organised as part of Canberra's centenary celebrations, could lose its lustre if Australia fielded a second-string team. A handful of players will be sent to India to get used to the conditions on the sub-continent before the Test series, but that wouldn't be until after the Canberra game.

ACT Sports Minister Andrew Barr said he never shared those concerns and always had confidence the game's governing body wouldn't leave Canberra short-changed.

''You want to see the best available players, but that's a matter for selectors,'' Barr said. ''It was never going to be the case the B-team was going to be sent for an ODI of this status.

''Cricket Australia recognise the importance of the Centenary year, that's why we've got the game and why we've got a strong team.''

Maxwell, who sold for a staggering $1 million in the Indian Premier League auction, Warner and wicketkeeper Matthew Wade will depart on Saturday and miss the final match of the five-game series with the Windies at the MCG on Sunday. That game could be a dead rubber as Australia currently holds a 2-0 lead.

A group of eight players - Jackson Bird, Ed Cowan, Moises Henriques, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Steve Smith - will be the first to depart for India on Thursday.

Of those, Khawaja, Henriques and Smith have featured in Australia's ODI team this summer.

The remainder of the Test squad will leave on Monday.

Watson is back on the international scene for the first time since breaking down with a calf injury during the Boxing Day Test.

The broad-shouldered all-rounder won't bowl and will be restricted to opening the batting as he continues his recovery.

The Australian team will arrive in Canberra on Tuesday, while the West Indies flew into the city on Monday night for their second visit in the space of a week.

While they struggled in both games on the bouncy WACA Ground wicket, the Windies will be hoping for better luck after scoring more than 300 in last week's 23-run loss to the PM's XI.

Cricket ACT chief executive Mark Vergano believes it's only a matter of time before the tourists' much-vaunted batting line-up, including hard-hitting opener Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard, hit their straps.

''You're just waiting for a couple of their guys to explode,'' Vergano said.

''Conditions in Perth are unique so they take a bit of adjustment, whereas coming to Canberra, they're familiar with their surroundings and have had success here before.

''We'll see a real competitive, hard-fought match.''

A capacity crowd of more than 11,000 is tipped to attend the sold-out encounter.

 

WEDNESDAY

One-day international: Australia v West Indies at Manuka Oval, 2.20pm. TV time: Live on WIN. Gates open at 12.30pm.

Australian squad: Michael Clarke (captain), George Bailey, Ben Cutting, Xavier Doherty, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Phillip Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, Shane Watson.

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