SYDNEY: Michael Clarke expects spin to play a role in Australia’s World Cup showdown with Sri Lanka on a dry Sydney Cricket Ground pitch on Sunday.
The 1996 champions, Sri Lanka lead the four-time champion Aussies by one point in the Pool A standings and a win would likely leave them second in the group behind current leaders New Zealand.
But a defeat for either nation would increase the possibility of finishing third in the group and thereby the chances of encountering South Africa in the quarter-finals
The SCG is Australia captain Clarke’s home ground and he believes Sunday’s pitch will play differently to the one on which South Africa smashed 408 for five against the West Indies on February 27.
“It looks like spin is going to play a part. It looks quite dry and certainly hasn’t got as much grass on it as I’ve seen in past one-day matches at the SCG,” Clarke told reporters on Saturday.
“In saying that, that’s today, so a day of sun, a bit of rolling, I think it might harden up.
“The SCG in general, a change of pace has always been a weapon. Generally spin plays a part, and it’s a pretty big ground, as well. I think you’ll see a pretty good wicket.
“Conditions are very different to what we’ve just seen in Perth (against Afghanistan) and I think it’s a little bit different to what South Africa played on here.”
The Australians may call up designated spinner Xavier Doherty for his first match of the tournament and can also call on Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith and Clarke to share the spin duties.
Sri Lanka will be without regular spinner Rangana Herath because of split finger webbing, but leg-spinner Seekkuge Prasanna, Dinesh Chandimal and Tillakaratne Dilshan could be used.
Clarke said the Australians were deeply respectful of the Sri Lankans, who bat very deep and are the most experienced team at the tournament.
“Sri Lanka have had a lot of success in World Cups and in big tournaments,” he said.
“They’ve got a lot of experience. They’ve got some world-class players.
“They’re going to be as tough as any team. If they play their best, they’re always a tough team to beat.”
Clarke, who came into the tournament with fitness issues after hamstring surgery kept him out of much of the Test series against India and the following one-day tri-series with India and England, said he was feeling healthy.
“I feel I’m fitter, fitter and healthier than I’ve been in a long, long time,” he said.
“I have that hunger inside me to be successful and help Australia go as far as we possibly can in this World Cup.
“I’ve copped a fair bit of criticism over the past few months, so I’m excited about what lies ahead.
“I feel like I’m at my best. I’m ready to help this team have success.”
He added: “I think the players know where we stand. We haven’t spoken about it. We don’t need to talk about it.
“I think we have to be focused on tomorrow and regardless who you play in the quarter-final, you’re up for a tough match.
“We know if we make the quarter-finals where that quarter-final will be (in Australia). Who we play against is irrelevant.” AFP