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Nixon to play Red Adair role

Paul Nixon will begin his role as the Red Adair of England’s one-day squad tomorrow in the Twenty20 international at the SCG.

At 36, and with no international experience, Nixon is being charged not only with keeping wicket and batting, but also with conducting the operation in the field after the Ashes disaster.

Although Michael Vaughan, as captain, has responsibility for decision-making, it is Nixon who will be cheerleader-in-chief when Australia are at the crease. The modern wicketkeeper is expected to offer more than simply runs and catches and Duncan Fletcher, the coach, believes that Nixon’s garrulous character can come into its own.

He has made 35 appearances in the shortest format, helping Leicestershire to reach the Finals Day in all four seasons since the competition came into being in 2003. His unorthodox methods — there are few more adept reverse-sweepers in the country — have been crucial to the success of his unfashionable county.

Australia themselves are in their second year of Twenty20, but the format has been as great a success as in England, with more than 30,000 spectators attending the state final in 2006. Some 40,000 people are expected tomorrow, even though most of the England supporters have returned home after the Test series.

State sides have been even more daring than the bouncy-castling English counties in their promotion of the concept. New South Wales have brought Andrew Johns, the legendary rugby league player but fifth-grade cricketer, into their side as a gimmick, knowing that he would struggle and without taking out a special insurance policy.

Indeed, there is still a feeling here that Twenty20 is more important as a way to entice people to the sport than a serious concept, but the introduction of the first World Championship in South Africa in September and then in England in 2009 is bound to milk the competitive juices of Ricky Ponting and his colleagues.

Ben Hilfenhaus, 23, a seam bowler from Tasmania, has been drafted into a senior Australia squad for the first time after impressing for the Prime Minister’s XI in the opening game of the tour in Canberra on November 10.

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