The Ashes: Australia look to apply final coat
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It's a fair bet Michael Clarke won't be booed at the Sydney Cricket Ground this week when he sets out to become just the third Australia captain to achieve a 5-0 sweep over England in an Ashes series. Three years ago, Australian frustrations at their team's humiliation by a rampant England boiled over with some vociferous catcalling when Clarke, standing in for the injured Ricky Ponting, came out to bat in the fifth Test.
Australia lost that series 3-1 with Clarke assuming the captaincy permanently not long afterwards and, although it has not always been a smooth path since, his team look more settled and confident than at any time in his reign.
Victories by 381 runs, 218 runs, 150 runs and eight wickets are testimony to crushing Australian superiority in the first four Ashes Tests and Clarke's men will be going all out to drive home their advantage when the fifth gets underway on Friday. "We want to win this match, we know we've got to do all the hard work and we're looking at this like a final," said pace bowler Mitchell Johnson, whose 31 wickets at an average 14.32 have been a key factor in Australia's charge. "We know they are going to come out fighting hard. They're not going to want to lose 5-0."
That fight back from a team that was No.1 in the world as recently as August 2012 has long been anticipated.
The 3-0 home Ashes series triumph earlier this year and the two that preceded it in 2009 and 2010-11 are now distant memories and nothing in the performances in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne suggests England can turn things around in Sydney.
Two key players are no longer with the touring party with batsman Jonathan Trott having returned home to deal with some psychological issues and spinner Graeme Swann retiring after the Ashes were relinquished in Perth.