Australia in fine fettle heading to Perth
Sydney: Australia move on to the third Test against India in Perth this week with a 2-0 series lead, a captain in the form of his life and a fiercesome bowling attack salivating at the prospect of a lively wicket at the WACA.
While concerns remain about the fragility of the inexperienced top order and the loss to injury of young fast-bowling sensation James Pattinson, Australia could hardly hope to be in better shape.
Michael Clarke`s monumental 329 not out was the highlight of the Sydney Test but the innings and 68-run victory was built on the pace bowling unit taking 20 wickets for a fifth Test match in a row.
Pattinson, 21, has been ruled out for the series after injuring his foot but was likely to have been rested in any case after playing his first four Tests back to back.
And while Mitchell Starc was included as his direct replacement in the squad, Ryan Harris is more likely to link up with Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus in the strike attack.
Harris, who took 6-47 in Perth as Australia secured their only win in the last Ashes series, is fit again after yet another of the injuries that have blighted his career.
"The fact is we`ve got a proven Test quick bowler waiting in the wings, ready to go," Australia coach Mickey Arthur told reporters on Friday.
"We`ve put a lot of work into Ryan over the last two weeks. He was close to maybe getting a game here, but we felt he needed a bit more work.
"We satisfied that, if selected, he`s ready to go come Perth."
The only other potential change to the team would be if Australia decided to bring Starc in as a fourth paceman and leave out spinner Nathan Lyon.
"I don`t like going into a test match without a spinner, a spinner changes tempo, it just gives you variation," said Arthur, echoing comments made by Clarke.
"I think Nathan did a job for us, there wasn`t a great amount of spin available yet he did a job playing against some of the greatest players of spin bowling in the world."
Top Order Troubles
Although Australia`s middle order did them proud in Sydney, with Ricky Ponting breaking a two-year Test century drought with a knock of 134 and Mike Hussey making an unbeaten 150, the top order was again less than impressive.
Of particular concern is opener Shaun Marsh, who has made three runs in three innings in the series after coming off a debilitating back injury.
"As I said before Sydney, we`re confident we have the best top six available to us," said Arthur.
"When Shaun plays well, he leaves very well. He has perhaps been a little bit tentative and that`s natural because when you come back into Test match cricket, you are a bit tentative.
"I`m not worried. Shaun is a fantastic player who`s going to score a lot of runs for Australia."
Opener and all rounder Shane Watson, Australia`s Player of the Year for the last two seasons, is still struggling with hamstring and calf injuries but could be fit for the final Test in Adelaide.
Clarke was named Australia`s best player in 2005 and 2009, when he shared the honour with Ponting, and would seem a shoe-in for this season`s award after his innings at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
"That knock was sensational, we were under pressure at 3-37 on day one, he showed a lot of decisiveness, he was aggressive, he was positive, he made all the right decisions," Arthur said.
"That innings under that sort of pressure, ranks right up there as one of the best innings I`ve seen."
Arthur said the Perth track would be like a "furnace" to the Indian batsmen, who have been far from impressive in the series despite their undoubted world class pedigree.
"The wickets at Sydney and Adelaide most resemble the sub-continent but the WACA will be completely different," he said.
"There`ll be a lot of pace and a lot of bounce and it`ll be interesting to see how they go there."