Clarke content in Cardiff
Michael Clarke has no qualms about starting the Ashes in the unfamiliar surroundings at Cardiff.
Last Updated: 06/07/09 2:04pm
Michael Clarke has no qualms about starting the Ashes in the unfamiliar surroundings at Cardiff, and believes Australia are fully prepared to retain the urn this summer.
Much has been made about the ECB's decision to stage the first Ashes Test at Cardiff and not at Lord's, with the home of cricket playing host to the second Test.
Given Australia's fine record at Lord's it may not be a bad decision for England, but the Australians are not too perturbed about the venue.
Clarke has played at Cardiff during his Hampshire days and the Aussie vice-captain believes the venue will not make much difference to the outcome.
"For me, I'm very happy to be here in Cardiff," Clarke said at a news conference on Sky Sports News.
"I was lucky enough to play here a few years ago when I was playing for Hampshire. The team's happy to be here and we're looking forward to the first Test on Wednesday.
"It's up to the English cricket board to decide where we play and this is the ground we're playing our first Test match on, so it doesn't matter where we play, we want to get off to a good start.
"Our preparation couldn't be better than it has been the last couple of weeks and the boys are really keen to get started on Wednesday."
Unlike four years ago Clarke will not have to face Steve Harmison, at least at the start of the Ashes, despite the Durham man's fine form for England Lions, but he still believes it will be a battle this summer.
"I always say they're a hard team to play against, but they're even harder in their own conditions," Clarke added. "They're coming off some good cricket against the West Indies, they've got some confidence and I'm certain it's going to be a wonderful series.
"I've said before I hope it's similar to 2005, I hope the results are a little bit different but I hope the way the games are played are very similar to 2005. Everyone wants a very competitive, played in the right spirit, Test series.
"Steve's been a fantastic bowler for a long time for England, they obviously feel they've got four other fast bowlers or three others in the squad that they think are ahead of Steve at the moment.
"For us now it's about preparing for the players that are in their squad and looking at their bowlers and make sure we're ready for Wednesday."
In a spin
The Cardiff pitch is expected to offer help to the spinners, and England could go in with both Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar in their starting XI.
"It'll definitely be a challenge, the conditions will play a big part in how big of a challenge it is. Monty and Graeme are both very good spin bowlers and we'll have to be at the top of our game to be successful against them
"I think facing Nathan Hauritz is the perfect preparation for facing Graeme Swann, I bowl a little bit in the nets, left arm orthodox, nowhere near as good as Monty but at least it's coming out of the same hand.
"So I think our preparation against the two spinners in the England squad has been spot on."
Australia may have lost the likes of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden to retirement, but Clarke believes the new breed can still bring home the Ashes.
"I think our squad's in a real good position at the moment. I've been fortunate enough to play in 2005 and 2007 and it's about making sure you're feeling confident, making sure your preparation's done.
"I don't think it matters what players you've got, we feel when we're on the top of our game we can beat any team in any conditions.
"It's just now about the next couple of days, about getting your head right and being mentally ready for what's going to be a wonderful series."