Clarke warns Kiwis of MCG factor in World Cup final

SYDNEY:  Skipper Michael Clarke says Australia’s experience playing at the Melbourne Cricket Ground will be a major factor in Sunday’s World Cup final against New Zealand.

Australia put themselves in line for a fifth World Cup title with an emphatic 95-run semi-final victory over defending champions India in Sydney on Thursday.

The Black Caps won a nerve-tingling semi-final against South Africa in Auckland on Tuesday with a six off the penultimate ball to book their first World Cup final appearance after losing all six of their previous semi-finals.

New Zealand downed Australia by one wicket in a sensational finish to their low-scoring pool game in Auckland earlier in the tournament, but Clarke believes it will be different in Sunday’s final.

The Black Caps last played Australia in an ODI at the MCG six years ago and overall have won just four of their 19 ODIs against the Aussies at the ground.

“I think the fact that the conditions will be different will certainly help us and we’ve played a fair bit of cricket throughout the summer at the MCG as well,” Clarke told reporters after Thursday’s victory.

“Conditions are a lot different to what New Zealand have been playing in New Zealand, but in saying that we will have to play our best cricket to win.

“New Zealand have been the form team of the competition and they certainly deserve to be in the final.

“There is always that great rivalry between Australia and New Zealand and the fact that the two hosting nations are in the final is extremely special.”

Defeated India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said New Zealand’s biggest obstacle will be dealing with the size of the vast MCG arena after playing all their pool matches on smaller New Zealand grounds.

“The one biggest thing that the New Zealand team will have to deal with is the size of the field,” Dhoni said.

“In New Zealand you can get away with quite a few mis-timed shots. Generally, in New Zealand you get good wickets but when you come to Australia you get a bit of reverse swing and the same time you might get wickets that are slightly two-paced.

“How New Zealand take risks will be something that is very crucial and Australia have that advantage of knowing the wickets well and having three left-arm fast bowlers in their armoury.”

Clarke said mentally the Australians were ready to play in Sunday’s tournament decider.

“Obviously, we haven’t got much time and recovery will be our goal and focus over the next two days,” he said.

“I think physical recovery is the most important thing for us right now. Mentally, the team is ready for this final.

“We have been building up throughout this tournament to get this opportunity to play in a World Cup final.”