PERTH, Australia // In a stat among stats for a sport which places extraordinary value on centuries and numbers, opposing captains Michael Clarke and Alastair Cook will each earn their 100th Test caps in the third Ashes match of the series on Thursday.
Clarke’s Australia team lead the five-Test series 2-0 and are hoping to regain the Ashes in Perth. Cook’s team have won the past three Ashes series, but after going through a year without defeat, have suddenly slumped to back-to-back defeats in this series.
Understandably, both players will put more emphasis on their teams, but the coinciding hundreds warrant attention. Clarke, 32, made his debut in India in 2004, late in Australia’s prime period in modern cricket, and has scored 7,940 runs at an average of 52.58
Cook, who will turn 29 later this month, also made his debut in India in 2006 and has scored 7,883 runs at an average of 47.20, the kind of return that his deputy believes puts him on the path to greatness.
“I don’t know the records that he is about to break, but there are going to be a few of them,” the England vice-captain Matt Prior said. “He will be probably the greatest England cricketer.
“In my mind, there is no doubt about that and from a leader point of view, there is no other man I’d want leading us on to the field, because he leads from the front and leads by example and I expect he will do exactly that in this game. A massive congrats to him for playing 100 games – incredible.”
Mitchell Johnson, the Australia fast bowler, wants to terrorise the England batsmen for the third time in the series to deliver his captain a fitting 100th Test.
“It’s a phenomenal effort to make 100 Tests,” Johnson said. “It’s a lot of days out in the field and a lot of heartache that goes with it, but also a lot of happy times as well, like we’re going through at the moment.
“He’ll definitely be feeling a bit. He’ll be nervous and I’m sure excited at the same time.”
Clarke went through a drought of nine Tests without a win, including a series sweep in India and a 3-0 Ashes defeat in England, before winning the first two Tests of this series. Clarke has been in form with the bat, too, scoring centuries in Brisbane and Adelaide.
“The past 12 months, I’ve been really happy with his style of captaincy,” said Johnson, who has taken 17 wickets in the first two Tests. “He’s been aggressive when he needed to be, pulled it back when he’s needed to.”
Clarke was fined after the 381-run win in Brisbane because an obscenity he used in a heated verbal exchange with England’s Jimmy Anderson was heard on the TV broadcast. Tension has been high in the series, with Clarke being unusually combative in the field. It is a hard-nosed approach his players are supporting.
“I thought it was great what he did,” Johnson said. “He stood up for the players. That’s what you want from a captain.”
Coach says England have no fear of Johnson
PERTH, Australia // Coach Andy Flower said England are not scared of Australia paceman Mitchell Johnson, and believes the tourists’ dismal record in Perth will have no bearing on the outcome of the pivotal third Ashes Test.
Johnson dominated the England batsmen in Brisbane and Adelaide, taking his side to the brink of reclaiming the Ashes after suffering three consecutive series defeats.
The left-arm paceman, who has taken 17 wickets with his 150 kmph deliveries, has been tipped to bowl even faster on his home ground, the Waca, in the match starting Thursday.
Despite the England batsmen being bruised and battered, Flower rejected claims that they were afraid of Johnson.
“I wouldn’t say scared,” he said. “One thing I would say about playing fast bowling is that our batsmen have to display the combination of skill and determination to bat long periods against it.
“Because if we do expose our lower order, they will struggle against that sort of pace. So the responsibility lies with the batsmen in that regard.”
England have a sorry record in Perth, where their only win in 12 attempts came in 1978. Flower is undaunted by his side’s previous struggles at the Waca, but is hoping captain Alastair Cook wins the toss so the team can bat first and post a big score.
“I think past glories mean nothing in this context,” Flower said on the England and Wales Cricket Board website.
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