Sydney: Australia's pace bowling unit will give the tourists every chance of success in the Ashes series in England but will not be able to win back the precious urn without some help from the batsmen, captain Michael Clarke said on Wednesday.
Clarke said the Australians would relish going into the series in July and August as underdogs and that, if fit, pacemen Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Jackson Bird would cause England real problems.
"We've got a good attack; there's no doubt about it. The squad of quicks we have is a really good combination. They gel well together; they're all a little bit different," he told reporters at North Sydney Oval after the announcement of a sponsorship deal with Commonwealth Bank.
"But as batters, we've got to put runs on the board. There's no point in giving our bowlers 150 runs to bowl at. As batters, we have a huge responsibility to make sure we're getting 350, getting 400, putting those runs on the board. I'm very confident that if we can choose the best attack, we can have some success over there."
The batting might prove to be the hard part as, Clarke's own prolific scoring aside, Australia have frequently struggled for runs over the last year or two and have lost Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey to retirement in the last few months. The nadir came with the 4-0 series loss in India in February and March, which made England even stronger favourites to keep the Ashes they won at home in 2009 and retained with a 3-1 drubbing in Australia in 2010-11.
"Like all the boys, we're disappointed with our most recent results in India," Clarke added. "We know that's unacceptable as an Australian cricket team and we've been working hard to try and turn that around. All I can ask of the boys is to do their very best and give it a red-hot crack. We know that we're playing a very good team in their own back yard. We know that we're going there as underdogs but we like that tag."
Clarke took over as captain after the last Ashes series and has been in sensational form with the bat since, scoring 2,533 Test runs at an average of 68.45 with one triple century, three double centuries and five other hundreds.
His importance to the otherwise frail batting order could not be underestimated and he was confident he would be fit to play in England despite missing the last Test in India with a disc problem that has troubled him since he was 17.
"It'll be no different to how it's been throughout my career. I've managed to play 90 odd Test matches and only miss one," the 32-year-old said. "That's a big part of why preparation is so important for me. If I can't walk out to bat and score a hundred and help Australia have success, then in my eyes I'm unavailable for selection."
Clarke also said he hoped former vice captain Shane Watson - "one of the best allrounders in the world" - would be fully fit to contribute with both bat and ball against what he admitted was a very good England side. "(But) every team's beatable, I've experienced that first hand when I came into a great Australian side at the start of my career," he said.
"We lost games of cricket. We lost the Ashes in 2005 and no one expected that. If we play our best cricket, I'm confident we can win the Ashes."