Clarke flags reversal of method
As India seek a reversal of fortune in the final Test of the summer at the Adelaide Oval, Michael Clarke's Australia have prepared for a reversal of method in their pursuit of a 4-0 series sweep over the visitors.
Reverse swing has been seldom glimpsed all summer on a succession of well-grassed pitches that allowed Australia's fast men to gain conventional movement through the air and off the track for most of each match. However in Adelaide, beyond the rewards to be gained in the first hour or so of play, Clarke expects a return to the subtle art of swinging the old ball, in the absence of any other assistance on what appears a typically hard, dry surface.
While India will appreciate the chance to revert to some of the skills that have served the visitors faithfully on home turf for many years, Australia are also happy to be reminded of the need for such measures - their next Test matches are in the West Indies, on pitches likely to be slower and lower than anything seen at home in this series.
"I think reverse swing will play a huge part in this Test, it always does," Clarke said. "The ground is in great nick, so the outfield will keep the ball newer than I have seen it in the past but I think as the day goes on, especially in this heat, you will see a lot of reverse swing.
"And that is why I say it's probably as close to Indian conditions as you're going to get in Australia. So as a batting unit, we have been working on that in the nets, we have faced a bit of reverse swing and a fair bit of spin, so I think our preparation has been spot on."
In recalling Nathan Lyon at the expense of the young left-armer Mitchell Starc, Clarke kept the experienced pace trio of Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus and Ryan Harris in harness, judging all had recovered sufficiently from their Perth exertions for the possible rigours of a match that invariably sees a fifth day.
All had questions of sorts to answer in the lead-up: Harris has struggled wit the physical demands of consecutive Tests, Siddle showed signs of exhaustion in Perth, and Hilfenhaus has seldom proven to be at his best in Adelaide, where the new ball movement of his stock delivery can be more fleeting than elsewhere. However Clarke pointed out that Hilfenhaus had an even more modest record in Melbourne before he scooped seven wickets for the match in a 122-run victory.
"I'll bet you it's better than his record at the MCG, where he had a horrible record, and we picked him there and he got five-for [in the first innings]," Clarke said. "I'm really confident Hilfy's at the top of his game, bowling really well and can adjust to whatever conditions he faces. He's a very good bowler with the new ball but he's also very good at bowling straight if the wicket is slow and low, and he's got great control with reverse swing as well. He'll play a big part in this Test.
"Generally the Test match on the Adelaide Oval does go five days. So we have to have the discipline to hang in there until you get the opportunity to grab hold of some momentum. The boys are flying high on confidence but it's going to be a tough challenge. I'm certain India will be very keen to finish the series on a high. It's a great test for us as a team in what are going to be tough conditions to take 20 wickets."
Well as Australia have played at home this summer, it is a fact that the majority of conditions Clarke and his team will face overseas in years to come will be closer in character to Adelaide than elsewhere. Gautam Gambhir's talk about the preparation of "rank turners" were striking, but nothing new. To that end, the bowling coach Craig McDermott and his pace battery will, alongside Nathan Lyon, find out more about their prospects for future tours in this match than the preceding three.
"The pitches have been the same in Australia for the last two years, I think they were exactly the same against England, they were pretty similar in South Africa as well," Clarke said. "That is part of being an international sportsman, you travel the world and play in completely different conditions.
"I have played a number of times in India when the ball has spun so that will be no different next time we go there I'm sure. In my opinion, it's very hard to doctor the wicket when you're playing against very good opposition. It's about preparing a pitch and then both teams playing on it so that will be no different when we go to India and I think it has been the same in Australia for a while now, the last couple of years I have seen a little bit more grass on the pitches."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here