Pakistan v Australia 2012 August 23, 2012

Clarke moves up to No. 3


Australia's captain Michael Clarke is expected to promote himself to the pivotal No. 3 spot in the ODI batting order for the matches against Afghanistan and Pakistan in the UAE, with Michael Hussey's return to add greater ballast to the touring middle order.

Clarke walked to the crease at No. 3 in both the trial matches played during Australia's pre-season camp in Darwin, and ESPNcricinfo understands that he is now inked to remain there as the team's best limited overs option in the position.

Having returned from parental leave that ruled him out of the dire ODI tour of England, Hussey will bat at Nos. 4 or 5, leaving the Twenty20 captain George Bailey and David Hussey to round out the top six.

Since Ricky Ponting lost form and was dropped from the ODI team during the triangular series last Australian summer, No. 3 has been something of a problem position for the limited overs team, as the vice-captain Shane Watson, Peter Forrest, Bailey and Matthew Wade have all been tried there with limited degrees of success.

When fit, Clarke has retained the No. 4 spot he occupied beneath Ponting for some years, and in England did so despite the clear inadequacy of Forrest in particular to handle the challenges posed by the home attack. At the time, Clarke and the coach Mickey Arthur believed that Hussey's absence from the middle order meant the captain could not afford to be any higher than No. 4, the better to have some influence on the later passages of an innings.

Clarke has a sound ODI record in his limited appearances at No. 3, averaging 36.20 in 18 matches and making one century, an unbeaten 111 against India in Vizag in 2010, when he was stand-in captain. He is now set to make the move a permanent one.

Australia's acting coach for the first part of the tour, Steve Rixon, said the tourists would be playing their best team against Afghanistan and Pakistan, intent on building consistency and confidence in the ODI unit. The series follows a 12-month period that has veered from strong results in Sri Lanka and South Africa, to a halting triumph in the triangular series at home, a shared encounter in the West Indies and the abject 4-0 defeat in England.

"We've got one tournament leading into another, which a lot of these guys will be doubling up in, from [ODIs] here into T20 over here into the big one over in Sri Lanka," Rixon said. "So we are conscious of that, however, first things first we need to win these one dayers so we'll be looking at our very best side. We need to look at the wicket, see exactly what we've got … when we see what the wicket looks like we'll assess our options, and our options are pretty good at the moment.

"You have to really be looking at your own backyard, and our own backyard is how we're going to play best in these conditions. Regardless of the opposition, it's how David Warner is going to combat a turning wicket, or how Michael Clarke's going to play against the opposition in Dubai, that's the way we set ourselves up."

The opening match against Afghanistan will be a chance for the Australians to witness how quickly the strife-torn country has developed a brave and opportunistic limited overs team. Though he expected the tourists to win, Rixon said he and the players were enlivened by the chance to encounter a rising nation.

"Afghanistan has come in as a minor competitor, but they are competing at the top level, so we've got to go in with a lot of respect for the opposition, but we'd like to think we go in with the upper hand to be able to beat them in these conditions with the side we have," Rixon said. "I like the idea that minor nations are getting the opportunity to come in and play against the big boys, I think that's great for cricket and the culture of the game.

"We've only just got some [videos] recently so I'll have a little look at that. I'm sure they'll go in with a 'we've got nothing to lose' attitude, which is an outstanding way to play it, but we're also going in as a side that's been No. 1 for a long time and we want to get back to No. 1 and make every post a winner. We have to do what we do well, and if we do that then I think we'll be good enough."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mathew on August 27, 2012, 11:16 GMT

    So Aus don't know their best 11, and now the only 2 players that are shoe in's they don't know where to play them. Aussies having to dig out their green and gold shirts after donning SA colours for a month. What is happening in Aus? Pak are getting their 'admin' in order, and could prove to be a very handy side in all formats. Hope for a good contest but I can seen Aus getting a hammering.....o well cmon PAK.

  • Mathew on August 27, 2012, 6:37 GMT

    Have to agree with Jezza here. CLark is a very fine player and captain. As is Hussey, but with all the changes in the Aussie side of late, one wonders if they actually know an even rough best 11. Aus are extremly dependent on 2/3 players, most teams are but the others are avg at best. Hope for a good contest but my money is on PAK.

  • Sean on August 26, 2012, 4:03 GMT

    Why not stick Steve Smith in at 3 and get the pakistani lad back cant really get any worse can it? At least the aussys cant say their failure is for want of trying, its just simply lack of talent, skill, ability, co-ordination & mental capacity.

  • richard on August 25, 2012, 13:56 GMT

    @ VillageBlacksmith, its better to rearrange the chairs now, or should we wait untill its to late, like the queen mary. ya gotta watch those south african ice bergs haha

  • Jeremy on August 25, 2012, 4:45 GMT

    @Meety: Thanks for the informative update. In my opinion, Cricket is enriched with every "minnow" it adds to its ranks. They all require time to develop, and I would be happy to see the ICC dedicate more resources to the development side of things. It'll be good when Afghanistan ascend to the test playing ranks. I hope they knock off a test playing nation in an ODI in the near future, it's always good to see an underdog get up. If it's AUS, so be it. Cheers. PS- I hope AUS get up in the U-19 World Cup Final, but IND are a very strong team also. Hope it's an exciting & close match, AUS pipping the Indians at the post in the final over. Best of luck to both teams.

  • Geoffrey on August 25, 2012, 4:21 GMT

    @VillageBlacksmith.. absolute gold.

  • R on August 25, 2012, 2:19 GMT

    re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic

  • Andrew on August 25, 2012, 0:41 GMT

    @jezzastyles - I've followed the Afghanis development from the time the MCC sent a Gatting lead side over there & got pantsed. The MCC then funded an Afghani tour of England that was successful (played against club sides I think they were undefeated). Loved the documentary on them which showed their battle to get to the T20 W/Cup in the Windies, they basically went from no cricket (WCL 7), thru the ranks to having ODI status (only Affiliate country to have it). They have played a fair bit against Pakistan recently (in A-team encounters in Pakistan where they were beaten but not disgraced). They have a bowler Hamid Hassan who IMO is the best pace bowler outside of the world of Test cricket. I am expecting Oz to win, but would be shocked if it was a match rapped in about 100 balls (SL v Zim), or some other thrashing. I can see the Afghanis knocking off a Test nation in an ODI very soon, I have my fingers crossed it won't be Oz, but if they can get 2 or 3 of these games a year, who knows!

  • Brendan on August 24, 2012, 10:18 GMT

    Great move by Australia and Clarke. After that, focus on batting at 3 in tests. That would be great.

  • Jeremy on August 24, 2012, 6:43 GMT

    @Hammond - Ponting is already considered a "great" by most cricketing commentators, so your statement is flawed. Pup is a very good cricketer by any standard, a world-class batsmen in any condition, an excellent fielder, handy part-time bowler, and a razor-sharp captain. This is a psitive mood, and I agree with @dsig3, he should make the same move in tests. Great to see Afghanistan in the mix of things, like @Meety below, I hope they're competitive and have a good game. The ODI series against Pakistan will be very challenging for AUS, we've yet to settle on a core group of players, always shuffling the squad, so as much as it pains me to say it, I think Pakistan must be firm favourites going into the series (disregard the rankings).

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