SYDNEY: England will carry an air of unfinished business into the final Test of the Ashes series starting tomorrow, despite having already ensured it retains the famous urn.
England cannot lose the series after their emphatic win in the fourth Test at Melbourne, but the Sydney Test offers the enticing prospect of their first Ashes series win since 1987. That achievement, laudable in itself, would take it closer to their longer-term goal of attaining the world’s No. 1 ranking in Test cricket.
Australia enter the final Test of an unsuccessful series under an unpopular stand-in captain, but will be eager to square the series, save some face and begin a much-needed rebuilding process.
Michael Clarke will start as Australia Test captain for the first time, replacing Ricky Ponting who has a broken finger.
While team-mates have rallied around Clarke and pledged their support, newspaper polls have shown only eight per cent of Australians support his promotion to the captaincy.
Ponting is not a universally popular captain, but is admired for his past successes and embodying the qualities of doggedness, grit and fortitude associated with the captaincy since the days of Allan Border and Steve Waugh.
Clarke, 29, is more of a flamboyant character with his bleached hair and very public break-up with his former model fiance.
Team-mates have worked this week to alter that image, to paint Clarke as a more mature and driven individual.
“He’s got a very good cricket brain, he thinks about the game very well, he’ll be an aggressive captain,” Mike Hussey said. “He’ll always be looking to take wickets out there, he’ll be looking to make changes to the field, changes to the bowlers, searching for a wicket all the time and he’ll always want the game going forward.”
Hussey said Clarke had been an energetic captain when leading the national side in limited-overs games.
“I guess the challenge for him is to be able to maintain that over the five days of a Test match. It’s going to be hard graft but we have 100% confidence in him.”
Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, who will be Clarke’s vice-captain, said the public perception of Clarke could quickly change.
“The reaction with the public with all our players changes from week to week,” he said. “You’re one good innings away, or sometimes one good cover drive away, from the support being with you.” — AP