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Turning pitch gives Australia hope, says Clarke

Written by: Staff

ADELAIDE, Dec 4 (Reuters) Michael Clarke thinks Australia still have an outside chance of winning the second Ashes test despite trailling England by 97 runs heading into the final day.

Just 17 wickets fell over the first four days but Clarke said the Adelaide Oval pitch was starting to break up and Australia had a chance of mopping up England's last nine wickets quickly.

Clarke said leg-spinner Shane Warne was already starting to extract turn from the footmarks and, although the draw is looming as the most likely result, the Australians could put England under pressure if they picked up early wickets.

''I certainly don't think it's stale. I think there's a big chance that we can win the game,'' Clarke told a news conference today.

''Shane was spinning the ball a long way and any time he's spinning the ball like that, the Australian team's certainly got hope.

''I think tomorrow morning is crucial for us, we're going to come out fired up and hopefully get some wickets and you never know, maybe we'll have a run chase tomorrow afternoon.'' Australia made 513 in their first innings to finish 38 behind England on the first innings but were almost 100 behind at stumps after the tourists closed on 59-1.

Clarke made 124, his first test hundred in two years and his first against England after making 91 at Lord's last year. ''After I passed 91, it was definitely a tick in the box,'' he said.

BOGGED DOWN ''I wasn't too nervous but I got a little bit bogged down between 75 and 85 but when I looked at the scoreboard I knew that to make my first century against England, I had to work extra hard to get through it.'' Clarke also made 50 in the first test but said he would not be surprised if he lost his place in the team for the third test in Perth next week.

The 25-year-old was only called up at the last minute when Shane Watson was ruled out with a hamstring injury but with the all-rounder likely to be fit for Perth, Clarke knows he may get the chop.

''I knew that my opportunities were going to be limited this series and I had to perform. I had to score runs to put forward my case to the selectors and I think I've done that,'' he said.

''It's very tough for the selectors and that's why for me I just tried to make sure I made the most of the opportunities I've been given in Brisbane and here because I knew if Watto was fit I wouldn't be playing.'' Clarke, who was dubbed the golden boy of Australian cricket after making 151 on debut against India two years ago and 141 in his first home test against New Zealand, said the experience of being dropped shortly after last year's Ashes had made him a better batsman.

''I'm a little bit older and a little bit wiser now but I still try to be aggressive,'' he said.

''My shot selection is probably a lot better now than it has been in the past but I don't think I've changed my game a lot.

''It was great to score for my third test hundred but disappointing that I had to wait two years so there was some mixed emotions.

''I think I've also worked out a better way to score runs against the English attack.

''Fifteen months ago I would have been lot more impatient but after going through that and failing in England I knew I had to take my time.'' REUTERS PM ND1516

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