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Australia requests extra man for Ashes warmup matches

CRICKET Australia has asked England for permission to use an extra man in Ashes warmup matches to help solve some selection issues.

With Brett Lee and Stuart Clark coming back from injuries, the Australians have five pacemen to select from and only three or four places for quicks in the starting XI.

Cricket Australia official Michael Brown yesterday confirmed a request had gone to the England and Wales Cricket Board for permission to use 12 players in the tour matches against Sussex from June 24-27 and against an English selection at Worcester July 1-4.

England was allowed to do the same ahead of the 2006-2007 series in Australia, which it lost 0-5.

Australia captain Ricky Ponting said Lee, the former pace spearhead, appeared to be coming back strongly in limited-overs cricket but had not played a test match since December.

Lee "is still a bit of an unknown," Ponting said. "I'm hearing a lot of good things out of South Africa about how he bowled in the IPL but we haven't seen him up close yet.

"The first two games we play leading into the first test will tell us a pretty good story about where we see all of those five fast bowlers.

"That will be our best chance to look at the likelihood of some of those guys playing the first test match."

With Lee and Clark sidelined, left-armer Mitchell Johnson led an Australian attack containing inexperienced Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus to an upset 2-1 series win in South Africa in March, when the No. 1 test ranking was on the line.

Australia was coming off series losses in India and to South Africa at home ahead of that series.

Johnson was the player of the series against South Africa and Ponting said he was looking forward to seeing the paceman extracting plenty of swing from the English conditions.

"We really did see just how good Mitchell can be when he swings the ball back into right-hand batsmen," Ponting said. "Believe me, he works very hard at that part of his game every day he goes to training.

"The conditions will help him but they will help Hilfenhaus, Siddle, Clark and Lee, all the seamers.

"I couldn't be happier with the squad of fast bowlers we've got together in this group and there will be some great competition for spots come the first test match - and that in itself makes it a very exciting team to be around."

England, which had an upset 2-1 home win when the Ashes were last contested in 2005, is coming off a series win over the West Indies.


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