Clarke savours Ashes chance
Michael Clarke prizes Australia's opportunity to wrap up the Ashes 3-0 far above the occasion of his own 100th Test.
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Clarke and his opposite number Alastair Cook will both win their 100th caps at the WACA in Perth, where the odds will be loaded in favour of a home win and therefore first Ashes series victory for Australia since their whitewash winter of 2007/07.
The tourists have won just once here in 12 attempts, and that back in 1978 against an Australia team weakened by the impact of World Series.
At a venue renowned for its extreme pace and bounce, home advantage is significant - especially for a team containing Mitchell Johnson.
Clarke, unable as yet to confirm an unchanged line-up because of doubts about key seamer Ryan Harris' sore right knee, nonetheless knows much is in Australia's favour.
His own notable landmark, meanwhile, comes second behind getting his hands on the urn for the first time as captain. "That's why it's most special for me - the fact that we have a chance to win the Ashes.
"With regards to being your 100th Test, it's not a focus for me at all.
"There's enough other reasons as to why this Test match is so special to me, and this team."
Clarke will be cheered on at the WACA by his nearest and dearest, and acknowledges his century will be memorable - whatever the outcome.
"It's fantastic that I've been able to play 99 Test matches for my country.
"It's something I'm certainly proud of.
"I'll have my family coming - which is extra special."
He offered his congratulations too to Cook, three years his junior at 28.
"He deserves a lot of credit for the success he's had over a long period of time for England.
"He's a wonderful guy. I really enjoy playing against him.
"He's a very good captain, and I think he deserves all the credit he receives for playing 100 Test matches.
"He's always been a prize wicket for the Australian cricket team.
"His record speaks for itself."
Cook has made a national record 25 Test centuries, but has struggled so far in this series - most obviously when he was twice out cheaply, for three and then one, to Johnson in England's second-Test defeat in Adelaide.
Clarke expects his counterpart to respond, but is hoping Johnson et al can keep him under control.
"I don't think we've targeted anybody specifically.
"Our bowlers have plans to all the English batsmen, and fortunately for us at the moment they're working for Alastair.
"But he's a class player, so I've got no doubt he'll find a way to have success.
"We just have to try to limit that success to a level that helps us continue to win."
Australia have claimed the initiative, but Clarke still appears to be wary of a fightback from opponents who won the Ashes 3-0 on home soil only four months ago.
"It's hard if the opposition continue to play a very good style of cricket and don't let up.
"We found that in England - and I've found that in my career.
"We're 2-0 up in the series - but as a batsman you start on zero, and as a bowler you haven't got a wicket."
Should Harris' injury prevent him from playing, the disruption to an attack Clarke rates the best in the world might just give England a chink of light in their increasingly unlikely quest for a fourth successive Ashes series win.
Clarke, however, is still optimistic there will not have to be any changes after Harris' light bowl in the nets on Thursday.
He gradually worked up to full pace, only for all-rounder James Faulkner - Harris' most likely replacement - to suffer a hand injury while batting, ruling him out.
Seamers Doug Bollinger and Nathan Coulter-Nile were put on standby last week, and are still present and correct.
But Clarke said: "I hope everyone will come up.
"There is the obvious one, in 'Rhino' bowled today, so we are going to wait and see how he pulls up.
"But I'm confident he will be fine."
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