Tour of the UAE v Pakistan
Aussies ready for greatest challenge
Captain Michael Clarke outlines what his side needs to do in order to achieve success against Pakistan
21 October 2014, 06:00 PM AEST
Australia captain Michael Clarke says getting to grips with the slow, dry Dubai wicket will be his team's biggest challenge when the first Test against Pakistan gets underway tomorrow.
With Dubai using the same pitch that hosted limited overs matches at the start of October, which Peter Siddle described yesterday as "tired and worn", the way is paved for New South Wales left-armer Steve O'Keefe and Western Australia allrounder Mitchell Marsh to make their Test debuts.
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Marsh's father and former Test opening batsman Geoff Marsh has flown into Dubai with other members of the Marsh clan, although not brother Shaun. Geoff was on hand in Sri Lanka in 2011 when eldest son Shaun was presented with his Baggy Green in Kandy.
Clarke, who has oft spoken of his desire to win Tests away from Australia, backed his team to adapt to the conditions.
"It’s the slow wickets, I think that’s our greatest challenge, the fact that the wickets are so much slower than what we’re used to in Australia," said Clarke.
"It’s being able to adapt to that, whether we’re bowling or we’re batting.
"I think spin and reverse swing are going to play a really important part throughout this series and we have to combat both of those to have success."
With Lyon and O'Keefe set to play key roles in Australia's bowling attack, Clarke also backed the part-time spin of Steve Smith and David Warner to have an impact, while also declaring himself fit to bowl.
"Our part-timers can play a big role, especially as the game goes on, the wicket deteriorates," said Clarke.
"I've always liked spin bowling. I want to take 20 wickets and if it means Steve Smith gets 20 of them then I don't mind that."
Although Clarke was not long at the crease in Australia's warm-up match, a 153-run defeat to Pakistan A in Sharjah, the skipper spent two days in the field and did enough to erase any last remaining doubts about his fitness.
"I would have liked a few more runs in the practice game to test that (hamstring) out but I guess the positive was the fact that I was able to field for two full days, have no pain so both Alex (Kountouris, the team physiotherapist) and I were really impressed with that," said Clarke.
"I haven’t done too much batting in a game. My last hit apart from the practice game was in Zimbabwe (in August).
"So there’s been a bit of a gap between playing too much cricket. So I’ve been trying to get my work as much as I can in the nets.
"I’ve been working really hard since coming here on my preparation and I feel like I’m gradually getting there every day.
"Now I feel like I’m probably at a stage where it’s time to get into a game and spend some time in the middle."
Winning both Tests against Pakistan would send Australia back above South Africa to No.1 in the world, but with a margin that would only be a fraction of a point, Clarke was not eager to talk up the prospect.
"I learnt my lesson from South Africa about that," said Clarke. "And then we win and then we don't play for six months and then South Africa plays again. I'm not going to go through that again.
"For us it's about winning. It's about being consistent with our performance at home and away from home.
"I want us to be the number one team in the world but to do that you need success no matter who you play against, it doesn't matter what the conditions."