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Aussies geared for 5-0 sweep

By Will Swanton 31/12/2002 07:15:40 PM Comments (0)

Matthew Hayden says a weary Australian cricket side is determined to complete an Ashes clean sweep in this week's fifth Test against England at the SCG.

Of that he is certain. Of history, he's not so sure.

Australian players dragged themselves through Sydney Airport on Tuesday morning looking mentally and physically wrecked as a hectic program this summer began to take its toll.

Maybe it was tiredness that made Hayden forget that a 5-0 Ashes result had been achieved before, by Warwick `The Big Ship' Armstrong's Australian team in 1920-21.

Or maybe he just didn't know.

"No side in history has been able to win five-nil," Hayden said after collecting his bags, looking like he needed a nap.

"For us it's a huge milestone and I think it's keeping us alive. We're at a stage where we're quite tired this series and I think England are as well."

Australia goes into the New Year Test without fast bowler Glenn McGrath.

After 56 straight Tests, the machine has broken down with a side strain.

"Essentially you're missing the best bowler in the world," Hayden said.

"But I'm sure whoever comes in will do a great job. It's a great honour to play for your country and I know they'll be fired up and ready to go."

Either Queensland fast bowler Andy Bichel or West Australian spinner Brad Hogg will replace McGrath in the starting side.

Hogg's WA team-mate Brad Williams is unlikely to get a run despite his inclusion as the reserve paceman.

McGrath's disappointment at missing his home Test is compounded by the fact it might be captain Steve Waugh's last appearance in Australia.

McGrath and Waugh are great mates.

"Sydney is my favourite ground in the world and I love playing here in front of my home crowd," McGrath said.

"It's always disappointing to miss a Test but to miss one in Sydney adds more to it. It would be really disappointing if this was Steve's last - hopefully he's got a few left in him yet.

"They say things happen for a reason so maybe a rest will give me a chance to get a bit fitter and a bit stronger for the next six months."

Rest isn't likely any time soon for the Australians.

The Ashes - which began on November 7 - are followed by the remainder of the tri series against England and Sri Lanka, which is followed by the two-month World Cup in southern Africa, and then another two-month trip to the West Indies.

Test and one-day players like Hayden and McGrath won't get to put their feet up until June.

Meanwhile, Hayden confirmed Waugh's poor state in the dressing room before the Australian captain's awful innings at the MCG yesterday.

A new round of questions emerged about Waugh's form and future after he scratched around for 14 runs - edges, misses, plain ugly strokes - before Australia secured a five-wicket win.

"I don't think we saw the best of him," Hayden said.

"He was suffering a migraine headache ... I've never had a migraine but I can assure you the way he was looking was dreadful."

Hayden was more impressed with Waugh's first innings of 77.

"He came out as aggressive as ever, right in the faces of the England attack and I think he's just got an enormous amount to offer the Australian cricket team.

"You'll never get any one of the players saying that he's not the bloke to lead the side at the moment. He's a true champion."

Waugh, 37, will decide whether to retire on soldier on after the Sydney Test.

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