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Aussies using Durham old-boy for inspiration, says Clarke
IT might be the first time an Australian team has had to prepare for an Ashes Test on North-East soil, but Michael Clarke thinks the presence of a former Durham opener in the dressing room could spell bad news for England.
Over the last couple of days Di Venuto has been back on the field at the Emirates ICG Durham getting Clarke, Shane Watson and the rest of the Australian order ready for a maiden Test outing in this part of the country.
“Our knowledge of the ground is as good as you could possibly have without actually playing here,” said Clarke, the Aussie skipper. “The guys have played one-day cricket here as well, which obviously helps.
“It's always nice to be here. Durham's a wonderful place to come and play cricket. Michael played a lot of cricket up here and is very complimentary about the place. The boys have had a good time so far. It was a nice warm day on Wednesday and it's still pretty muggy today.”
While the input from Di Venuto will inevitably have helped Australia in their preparations since drawing the third Test at Old Trafford on Monday, Clarke is also mindful his team must be aware of the changing conditions the Chester-le-Street wicket could bring.
“A lot of the time, travelling around the world, playing on different wickets, it's about assessing it yourself as well,” said Clarke. “You can have all the information, which is important, and gives you some local knowledge, but the best way to assess it, is to spend time in the middle, whether you are batting or bowling.
“It is still 22 yards out there. It's still three stumps at either end. We just have to find a way to keep that red ball out as batsmen and take wickets as bowlers. Guys will adjust when they get out to the middle.
“I think this wicket's extremely dry. It might go a little bit up and down as the game goes on. If it's overcast I do know the ball can swing and seam in Durham.”
The eve of the fourth Test was once again dominated by questions about the Hot Spot storm after a report on Australian TV station Channel Nine alleged players from both teams had used silicon tape to cheat the decision revive system (DRS).
But after Clarke spoke out earlier in the week – denying strongly cheating claims – he was reluctant to dwell on the matter again yesterday and, unlike England counterpart Alastair Cook, opted out of attending a meeting on Wednesday with the ICC to discuss DRS.
“I made pretty clear what I felt about it,” he said. “I found it quite amusing. I prefer not to talk about it any more. Our focus has to be on cricket. What I think, what I feel, the information I have, is that nothing's changed in regards to this Test, so let's get on with the game.”
Michael Di Venuto
After losing the first two Tests at Lord's and Trent Bridge, Australia looked on course to pull one back in Manchester after a a first innings of 527 for 7 declared … until the weather intervened.
The result meant England retained the Ashes, but Clarke is keen to end this series in similar fashion to give them the momentum going in to the next one starting on November 21 in Brisbane.
“I don't know if we have got any more than England because England will be taking the positives that they're 2-0 up and can't lose the Ashes,” said Clarke. “But I think the way we played in Manchester has certainly given us plenty of confidence in our team.
“That's a really nice thing to have, especially after losing the first two Test matches. Yet as a batsman you start on zero and as a bowler you haven't got a wicket. It's about consistent performances and being able to back up what we did in Manchester, that's what we have to do.
“I'm sure there are people in our high performance team that will have an eye on the future. I'm sure the selectors are thinking about that already. Darren Lehmann (the Australia coach) is thinking about that too.
“As a player, I don't think you can afford to, you need to be really focused on what's in front of you. I think it's very smart that the high performance team, selectors and the head coach are looking to the Australian summer.”
But Chester-le-Street and the North-East conditions awaits.
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