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Clarke staying grounded

Australia captain Michael Clarke is prepared to put pragmatism before romance in order to inflict a 5-0 whitewash on England.

Clarke acknowledges the temptation to try to field an unchanged, winning team throughout the Ashes series – which is set to conclude in Sydney.

But he knows, too, that Australia’s selectors will not do so without first assuring themselves those same 11 players who proved too good for England in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne are the same ones best suited to prevailing conditions at the SCG.

Clarke is not about to overreact at this stage to an untypically green tinge in the surface at his home ground, where spin is traditionally a basic requirement for a balanced attack.

With all-rounder Shane Watson able to bowl in the nets, despite the groin trouble he had in Australia’s victory in Melbourne last week, even on a 'greentop' the hosts can therefore have four seam options – leaving room for off-spinner Nathan Lyon to be retained.

Clarke said: “I think it would be extremely romantic [to stick with same team].

“But you've got to pick the best 11 players to help you have success in the conditions you’re playing.

“If conditions turn out to be similar to what they have been in the past four Test matches, then I think the selectors will go that way.”

He acknowledged, however, the unfamiliar appearance of the Test strip – one which meant he was unable to name his team.

He said: “That's as much grass as I've seen on an SCG pitch.

“Looking at it today, I think it would certainly suit the fast bowlers, but ... I think the forecast is pretty warm for the week, so I still believe spin will play a part throughout the Test match.”

There are strong hints that England may field as many as three debutants as they try to avoid that 5-0 whitewash.

Clarke can empathise with the tourists, having led his team to a 3-0 series defeat in England just last summer.

“When you're not performing well as a team, [everyone] seems to notice everything,” he said.

“When you're winning, you get away with murder. Everything seems to be covered over. You don't mean to drop catches; you don't mean to make no runs.

“We all get out of bed every day and train as hard as we do to try to perform – but it's a tough game.”

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