Green Edgbaston pitch excites Clarke

Michael Clarke has dared the hosts to keep the pitch for the pivotal third Ashes Test as green as it appeared on match eve.

As was the case in Cardiff and Lord’s, all of the lead-up talk in Birmingham has been on the centre wicket.

England director of cricket Andrew Strauss denied requesting slow strips for the five-Test series, a ploy that has played into Australia’s hands, according to coach Trevor Bayliss.

The series is level at 1-1 after a pair of one-sided games, ensuring the Edgbaston strip will be closely scrutinised before play starts at 8pm AEST on Wednesday.

Since arriving in London six weeks ago, Clarke has preached the mantra of winning in any conditions.

However, an on-song pace attack is one of the skipper’s most potent weapons so he was suitably content to be greeted with a green deck reminiscent of Brisbane.

“There’s 9mm of grass on it at the moment. It looks like a Gabba Shield game,” Clarke said.

“That’s as much grass as I’ve seen on a pitch in England, so I wonder if the talk in the media and the commentators’ talk has made the groundsmen a little bit nervous.

“From the Australian team’s perspective I hope he leaves it on there.

“If it stays like that and I win the toss, I will most definitely bowl first.

“But I don’t think it will stay like that.”

Clarke noted both Tests ended inside four days, despite the pitch hullabaloo.

“I’m interested to see if the pressure of what’s been said in the media gets to the groundsmen,” he added.

“If they leave grass on it, who knows how many days the game will go for.”

England counterpart Alastair Cook adopted a diplomatic approach when asked about the issue.

Cook suggested Edgbaston was typically a high-scoring ground, but persistent rain may limit what curator Gary Barwell can achieve.

“It’ll be interesting to see,” he said.

“There’s a lot of talk about pitches, but if you play well you put the opposition under pressure.

“If they play well they put you under pressure.”

Despite Cook’s words, there were signs at the venue that hinted Barwell was under the pump.

Lamps used to grow cannabis, on loan from local police, were used to dry out the deck.

England and Wales Cricket Board pitch consultant Chris Wood and Lord’s groundsman Mick Hunt were also present on Monday, according to a report from ESPNcricinfo.

Chris Rogers is set to play the match despite his dizzy spells in the second Test, while Peter Nevill has been picked ahead of Brad Haddin after an impressive debut at Lord’s.

It means Australia will retain the XI that thumped England by 405 runs at the home of cricket, with Clarke’s slump one of few concerns.

Clarke has scored two centuries in his past 26 Test innings, while he is yet to register a Test score of substance since returning from hamstring surgery.

“I’ve played enough cricket now to know it’s about making sure I’m doing the work and then backing myself,” he said.

“I’m confident runs will come.”

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