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Clarke: MCG win is priority

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Andrew Strauss & Michael Clarke

Despite World Cup selection looming, Michael Clarke said: "I don't think it will compromise my captaincy or the team's performance"

Stand-in skipper Michael Clarke has denied he will give special treatment to the players attempting to force their way into Australia's World Cup squad when his side meet England in the first one-day international in Melbourne.

Australia are using tomorrow's match as a final audition for their fringe players ahead of Wednesday's World Cup squad deadline.

Pacemen Shaun Tait and Brett Lee are set to go head-to-head as they attempt to complete their late bids for a place in the 15-man squad following injury.

David Hussey will also play his first ODI since August 2009 while Xavier Doherty, who took four wickets on debut against Sri Lanka earlier this summer only to suffer a forgettable Ashes, has a chance to show he is the right man to partner first-choice spinner Nathan Hauritz on the sub-continent.

With so much riding on the game for those players, Clarke is aware they will want adequate opportunity to press their claims, but warned he would only do what was best for the team.

“I don't think it will compromise my captaincy or the team's performance,” he said.

“We have one game tomorrow which is obviously the last opportunity for players to be looked at before the World Cup selection.

“Our goal is to win every game we play and to definitely win this series.

“We've got a huge World Cup ahead of us and these seven games are pretty important to not only have success in this series but also to build momentum going into that World Cup.”

The battle between Tait and Lee, two of the world's fastest bowlers, is set to capture the imagination the most.

Both have been beset by injury in recent times, with Tait recently returning from an elbow complaint and Lee retiring from Tests last year to rest his ailing body.

Shaun Tait & Brett Lee

Deciding whether both or one of Shaun Tait, left, and Brett Lee, right, will accompany Mitchell Johnson in the World Cup squad "is not a bad problem to have," according to Clarke

The 34-year-old's decision has been rewarded as he has taken 15 wickets in Australia's domestic 45-over competition this season, the second-most of any bowler.

But, while it would seem a straight shoot-out between them, Clarke hinted their may be room for both, alongside fellow fast bowler Mitchell Johnson, in Australia's World Cup squad.

“I see those three guys as quite attacking wicket-taking bowlers,” he said.

“But when they're bowling well they can also dry the runs up, especially when the ball gets a little bit older.

“If you can get any sort of reverse swing with a bit of protection for the guys they can do that role of bowling fast and straight and dry the runs up.

“Any time the ball is coming at 140-150kmph at you it is hard to start against.

“It is not a bad problem to have when you have three strike bowlers in one squad.”

Clarke also confirmed he would fill Ricky Ponting's shoes not only as captain but also at number three.

Ponting will miss the entire series after undergoing surgery on the broken finger he suffered during the Ashes.

“I'll bat at three,” said Clarke, who stressed the importance of the Australia's batsman making significant contributions after a poor Ashes series.

“I think the strength of Australian cricket with the bat has been that someone in the top-four has gone on and made a big score when we've gone on and had success as a one-day team,” he added. “I think it is no different throughout this series.”

Tomorrow's match will celebrate the 40th anniversary of limited overs cricket, after the first match was also played between these two sides at the MCG on January 5 1971.

Bill Lawry & Ray Illingworth

The first one-day international was played when the 1970-71 MCG Test was abandoned due to rain. Here Bill Lawry, left, and Ray Illingworth toss up when the Test finally took place

Australia won that game by five wickets and Clarke is hopeful of a repeat, adding: “It is a special game because from 40 years, nearly to the day, we can celebrate how this great form of the game started.

“It was obviously a little bit different back then.

“I think they planned to play a Test match but because of the weather it turned out to be a 40-over game. Hopefully the result is pretty similar to what it was then.”

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