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Aussie captain Michael Clarke eager to wrap up Ashes series early

Updated: Thursday, 12 Dec 2013 09:24 | Comments

Michael Clarke will earn his 100th cap in the third Ashes test
Michael Clarke will earn his 100th cap in the third Ashes test

Australia captain Michael Clarke prizes the opportunity to wrap up the Ashes 3-0 at the WACA far above the occasion of his own 100th Test.

Clarke and his opposite number Alastair Cook will both win their 100th caps in Perth, where the odds will be loaded in favour of a home win and therefore first Ashes series victory for Australia since their whitewash winter of 2007/07.

The tourists have won just once here in 12 attempts, and that back in 1978 against an Australia team weakened by the impact of World Series.

At a venue renowned for its extreme pace and bounce, home advantage is significant - especially for a team containing Mitchell Johnson.

Clarke, unable as yet to confirm an unchanged line-up because of doubts about key seamer Ryan Harris' sore right knee, nonetheless knows much is in Australia's favour.

His own notable landmark, meanwhile, comes second behind getting his hands on the urn for the first time as captain. "That's why it's most special for me - the fact that we have a chance to win the Ashes.

"With regards to being your 100th Test, it's not a focus for me at all.

"There's enough other reasons as to why this Test match is so special to me, and this team."

Clarke will be cheered on at the WACA by his nearest and dearest, and acknowledges his century will be memorable - whatever the outcome.

"It's fantastic that I've been able to play 99 Test matches for my country.

"It's something I'm certainly proud of.

"I'll have my family coming - which is extra special."

He offered his congratulations too to Cook, three years his junior at 28.

"He deserves a lot of credit for the success he's had over a long period of time for England. He's a wonderful guy. I really enjoy playing against him.

"He's a very good captain, and I think he deserves all the credit he receives for playing 100 Test matches.

Cook has made a national record 25 Test centuries, but has struggled so far in this series - most obviously when he was twice out cheaply, for three and then one, to Johnson in England's second-Test defeat in Adelaide. Clarke expects his counterpart to respond, but is hoping Johnson et al can keep him under control.

"I don't think we've targeted anybody specifically.

"Our bowlers have plans to all the English batsmen, and fortunately for us at the moment they're working for Alastair.

"But he's a class player, so I've got no doubt he'll find a way to have success.

"We just have to try to limit that success to a level that helps us continue to win."

Australia have claimed the initiative, but Clarke still appears to be wary of a fightback from opponents who won the Ashes 3-0 on home soil only four months ago.

"It's hard if the opposition continue to play a very good style of cricket and don't let up.

"We found that in England - and I've found that in my career. We're 2-0 up in the series - but as a batsman you start on zero, and as a bowler you haven't got a wicket."

Should Harris' injury prevent him from playing, the disruption to an attack Clarke rates the best in the world might just give England a chink of light in their increasingly unlikely quest for a fourth successive Ashes series win.

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