The Ashes: Clarke says SCG wicket pace-friendly for 5th Test

Last Updated: Thursday, January 2, 2014 - 10:30

Sydney: Australia captain Michael Clarke says he`s never seen more grass on a Sydney Cricket Ground pitch and predicts it will suit a pace bowling attack as the home side attempts to complete a 5-0 Ashes sweep over England.

The state of the wicket could see fast bowler James Faulkner included for the test beginning tomorrow, possibly to replace middle-order batsman George Bailey. It would be Australia`s first change to the starting XI in the series.

If Australia doesn`t make any changes, it would be just the fourth team to do that in a five-Test series.

Only England against Australia in 1884-85, South Africa against England in 1905-06 and the West Indies against Australia in 1991 were able to retain the same starting lineup in a five-Test series.

Clarke admitted it would be "extremely romantic" to maintain the same team for the fifth consecutive Test, but said it wouldn`t alter coach Darren Lehmann`s policy to pick the best XI for every match.

"If conditions turn out to be similar to what they have been in the past four Test matches then I think selectors will go that way," Clarke said on Thursday. "But we certainly need to pick our best team to win this Test match."

Bailey has struggled in his debut Test series, averaging 27.20 runs with just one half-century, while
Faulkner is a bowling all-rounder with a first-class bowling average of 142 wickets at 23.

"It might whiten up a little bit but that is as much grass as I have seen on an SCG pitch," Clarke said.

"It feels pretty hard at the moment. Looking at it today I think it will certainly suit the fast bowlers."

The only other likely changes to the Australia team would come from injuries.

All-rounder Shane Watson injured his groin while bowling during the Melbourne Test and fast bowler Ryan Harris has had knee and foot soreness throughout the series. But both bowled in the team`s final net session on Thursday.

"I don`t have any idea of the team at this stage," Clarke said. "We`re waiting to see how the guys pull up tomorrow (Friday) morning."

Clarke says he expects England to make some changes, including recalling dumped wicketkeeper Matt Prior.

"He`s been an important player for England over a long time," Clarke said of Prior. "I think you can see the benefit of (wicketkeeper) Brad Haddin in our team, just with his experience.

"Obviously (Haddin`s) performances have been great but his experience being our vice-captain is crucial to our team and I think Matty`s probably very similar to Brad in regards to his worth to the England team."

AP

First Published: Thursday, January 2, 2014 - 10:34

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