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Where: Old Trafford, Manchester
When: 10.00 (GMT)
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Michael Clarke said Australia’s current losing streak will not curtail his Test career, as the tourists look to bounce back from two straight defeats in the third Ashes Test.
The losses come on the back of a 4-0 series loss in India earlier this year, leaving Australia winless in six successive Tests – their worst run of results since a similarly dire streak against a powerful West Indies side back in 1984.
Five games into that run, a tearful Kim Hughes resigned as Australia captain.
But Clarke said he had no intention of following suit — or calling time on his Test career any time soon.
“I’m not retiring in the near future,” he said in Manchester, where the third Test starts at Old Trafford on Thursday.
“I’m like every other player — you get frustrated that you don’t make as many runs as you would like and get frustrated that the team’s not having success but that only makes the challenge more exciting I guess.
“I want to help this team have success. I want to make sure I’m leading the way and scoring runs and I’m 32 and not 36, so luckily I’ve got a few years before I have that discussion.”
Clarke, who has has had to deal with a longstanding back complaint throughout his career, added: “I’m not ready to walk away from cricket.
“I love the game as much now as I ever have that’s for sure. I have no intention to walk away from this game right now.
“As a captain you probably take it more personally when the team doesn’t have as much success as you would like, which probably just makes me work harder.”
Not since an Australia side inspired by batting great Don Bradman has any team come from 2-0 down to win a five-match Ashes series.
Australia suffered a 347-run thrashing in the second Test at Lord’s but Clarke believed that all was not lost.
“We’ve got to play better cricket but like I said after Lord’s I’m confident we can turn it around I really am, I’m confident we can win these next three Test matches and win the series,” he saisd.
Neither Clarke — a world-class batsman who averages over 51 in Tests — nor anyone else in the Australia side have yet made a hundred this series with the tourists’ top-order woes a key cause for concern.
“I think you’ve got to give credit to England as well,” said Clarke.
“They’re bowling very well with reverse swing and their spinners are doing a very good job at the moment. Their batters are finding a way to get through the very tough periods and make big scores.
“That’s the difference at the moment.”
England have never won an Ashes series 5-0 but have twice been on the receiving end of a whitewash, most recently in Australia in 2006/7.
Current England captain Alastair Cook — on the 2006/7 tour as a 21-year-old — said that was a chastening experience.
But he added that more recent Ashes history was a warning against complacency.
In 2009, England were 1-0 up with two to play when Australia hammered them by an innings and 80 runs in the fourth Test at Headingley.
England recovered to win the fifth Test at The Oval by 197 runs to regain the Ashes but the Headingley experience should be a warning not to get carried away.
“We’ve got to concentrate in doing that first hour very well on Thursday, followed by the next hour,” he said.
“That’s very boring but if you start thinking about other stuff, we’ve experienced it in the past.
“I think Headingley in 2009 was a prime example of that. We didn’t play very well in that game. We knew if we played well in that game, we would have won the Ashes. It’s about making sure we are totally on it for this match.”
England captain Alastair Cook said adapting to different conditions was all part of the game, amid suggestions that pitches for the Ashes series had been prepared to order.
At both Trent Bridge and Lord’s, where Ashes-holders England won the second Test by a colossal 347 runs, pitches were bare and dry, aiding reverse swing and spin – two areas where the hosts are considered to have an advantage over their arch-rivals.
Old Trafford has long had a reputation for taking turn and so should suit England off-spinner Graeme Swann, joint leading bowler in the series thus far with 13 wickets.
Indeed, England have added left-arm spinner Monty Panesar to their squad.
It was at Old Trafford where England off-spinner Jim Laker took a Test match record 19 wickets for 90 runs against Australia in 1956.
However, the tourists were convinced the pitch had been doctored, with former Australia leg-spinner Bill O’Reilly, covering the series as a journalist, saying: “Good god, I’d get 12 wickets on that excuse for a wicket without bothering to remove my coat!”
Two days out before this year’s Ashes Test at Old Trafford, brown patches were visible on the pitch.
“Old Trafford is notorious for having a wicket that is not aesthetically pleasing if I could put it that way,” Cook told reporters.
“But I don’t think it’s going to make any difference at all. I think it’s actually a better looking Old Trafford wicket than normally actually.”
Australia, who have now lost six Tests in a row, came into this series on the back of a 4-0 loss in India where pitch conditions were similar to the ones they are experiencing now.
Cook, however, said this was more a case of coincidence than conspiracy.
“I think the hot summer has certainly made it difficult to prepare anything different. It is very hard to get moisture in when it is as warm as that. I think it is always weather-dependent what sort of wickets you have,” he added.
As for host nations preparing pitches in their favour, Cook said: “That’s what home advantage is. It’s very hard to actually just order a wicket.
“You can ask for a wicket to try to suit your style of play. But it’s very difficult to get it absolutely right with the weather.
“We had a month’s worth of rain in three hours the other day, so that obviously changes it a lot.
“You go to the sub-continent and you play against three spinners like we did in Mumbai (where England won the second Test in November by 10 wickets with opening batsman Cook scoring a hundred), and that’s what one of the challenges of cricket is.”
Meanwhile Clarke had no complaints about the kind of pitches his side had found themselves playing on in recent times.
“Well, it’s smart by the other countries now, isn’t it?”, he said.
“Our strength is our fast bowling so they are trying to take that as much as they can out of the equation.
“If I was a different country, I would be doing exactly the same. The reality is since Shane Warne we haven’t brought through a number of great spinners or a number of great batters against spin.
“So opposition teams are probably seeing that as an area they can probably exploit against Australia. And we have to continue to get better.”