Clarke targets whitewash as Australia rebuild

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The Independent Online

Humbled at the World Cup, Australia and Bangladesh have an early chance to put some of the massive disappointment behind them in a series of three one-day internationals starting today.

Australia, winners of the World Cup on four occasions, crashed out in the quarter-finals two weeks ago for their worst tournament result in 19 years. Ricky Ponting resigned as Test and ODI skipper after nine years, but agreed to play on under Michael Clarke, who said yesterday he was feeling "added pressure" as the new skipper.

Clarke was also feeling confident, expecting a series whitewash against Bangladesh. "I would like it to be 3-0," he said at Sher-e-Bangla Stadium, the venue for all three matches. "I want to see Australia play some really good, positive cricket and hopefully we can win every game."

His confidence was understandable. Australia are still the top-ranked one-day team in the world, and have lost only once to Bangladesh, six years ago in Cardiff. Clarke and Australia also made a good start to the short tour by beating a Bangladesh Cricket Board XI by 90 runs at Fatullah on Thursday. Clarke, Ponting, Brad Haddin and Michael Hussey scored half centuries, and all-rounder John Hastings, unused in the World Cup, took a hat-trick. "Yesterday was some really good preparation," Clarke said.

Bangladesh skipper Shakib Al Hasan reacted to Clarke by saying: "We want to spoil their dream, we want to upset them."

The World Cup was a severe blow to Bangladesh pride. Despite playing at home, the team failed to get out of the group stage, and suffered humiliating defeats against West Indies and South Africa in front of angry home fans in Sher-e-Bangla.

Before the World Cup, Bangladesh's hopes were stoked by ODI series wins against New Zealand and Zimbabwe. Fast bowler Mashrafe Mortaza, who missed the World Cup because of a knee injury, is fit and available, Shakib said. The pitch, however, was expected to be low and slow.

Clarke said he wasn't underestimating their hosts. "Bangladesh in their home conditions makes them even tougher," he said. "I think they have played some really good cricket over the last few years."

Meanwhile, Steven Finn is determined to reclaim his England place in time for the Test series against World Cup finalists Sri Lanka and India. Finn was the leading wicket-taker after three Tests of the recent Ashes series and was rested for the fourth match. However, the 22-year-old's replacement Tim Bresnan performed admirably and was retained for the final Test.

Finn plans to use Middlesex as a springboard to put his name back into the selectors' thinking. "I feel fit and strong and have enjoyed my time off," he said. "It's given me the chance to go to the gym and work hard. I have to fight to get my place back in the England team. I'm aware of that and I relish the challenge."