Australia skipper Michael Clarke is hoping his rampant fast bowlers can take advantage of a green-topped pitch at the Sydney Cricket Ground as his side target a 5-0 Ashes whitewash.
The home team have four huge Test wins under their belts already and victory in the final match of the series starting on Friday would complete the misery for the beleaguered tourists.
Clarke said although the pitch looked lively ahead of the game – likely to suit the side that bowls first – he expected spin to play a role at the traditionally spin-friendly ground.
“I think a day of sun today and (with) a lot of rolling it might whiten up a bit. But that’s as much grass as I’ve seen on an SCG pitch,” he said on Thursday.
“It feels pretty hard at the moment. Looking at it today I think it will certainly suit the fast bowlers. But in saying that I think the forecast is pretty warm for the week as well. I still believe spin will play a part throughout the Test match.”
The green top will be good news for paceman Mitchell Johnson, who needs nine wickets to become only the fourth Australian bowler to take 40 wickets or more in an Ashes series along with Terry Alderman (twice), Rodney Hogg and Shane Warne.
Of those, only Warne took his 40 wickets in a five-Test series, a feat that Johnson is seeking to emulate.
Clarke said there was no need for him to rally his players before the game.
“I think that desire burns within every single player in the changeroom. I said that before Melbourne (fourth Test) and I think we showed with the way we played,” said the captain.
“This Test is no different. This is important. We want to continue to run with the momentum we have at the moment and continue playing good cricket and getting the results we’ve been getting.”
While Shane Watson (groin) and Ryan Harris (knee) bowled in the nets on Thursday, Clarke said he was not certain of his line-up for the Sydney Test.
“Everyone is out in the nets batting or bowling. I’m really confident guys will pull up fit, but we need to give them every chance and wait and see how they wake up in the morning,” he said.
“I think you’ve got to pick the best 11 players to help you have success in the conditions you’re playing.”
Clarke might not remember it but he was booed as he came to the crease in his first Test as Australia captain in the corresponding Sydney Test three years ago against England, but now he is acclaimed as the skipper of an Ashes-winning team.
“I got booed at the Gabba but I never remember being booed in my home ground (SCG),” he said.
“It sums up the game we play. There’s tough times and you need to find a way to get through that and then there’s the other side when you perform well and the team does well and the same people that boo you stand and applaud. It’s obviously a very special feeling.”