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Australia set to remain unchanged

By AAP .
31 December 2013 09:11PM EST

MICHAEL Clarke's Ashes champions are set to be immortalised in history as the first Australian team to remain unchanged for the duration of a five-Test series.

The same XI that kick-started Australia's epic turnaround in Brisbane back in November will be rewarded in Sydney and become only the fourth international team to achieve the feat.

Australia are vying to become just the third side in Ashes cricket to achieve a 5-0 whitewash, and Shane Watson and Ryan Harris appear all but certain to be on deck at the SCG to see out what they started.

In August at The Oval, when England lifted the urn for a third successive series, Australia's players made a point of staying on the field to watch the celebrations and soak up the pain.

Nine of those players were given a shot at redemption this summer, and along with Mitchell Johnson and George Bailey have turned the tables in emphatic fashion.

Australia will train on New Year's Day with a 14-man squad, but opener Chris Rogers hopes selectors stick with the tight crew.

"I think so. It would be quite nice for all the guys who have played in the whole series to be rewarded at the end," he said.

"If you were to miss out this game and be presented with a victory at the end, it wouldn't be as sweet. Everyone is keen to play.

"We made sure we went and watched England when they won at The Oval and I can still remember how that felt.

"To be on the other side this time is fantastic and I'm sure we'll milk every moment of it.

"There's no way I thought we were going to be in this position I must admit ... we've been fantastic."

Back in 1989 Australia fielded the same side for five consecutive matches against England, but that was in a six-Test series.

Greg Campbell played the first Test before he was replaced by Trevor Hohns.

Only England against Australia in 1884-85, South Africa against England in 1905-06 and the West Indies against Australia in 1991 have stayed the same throughout a five-Test campaign.

Although Watson and Harris are still carrying their niggles, they appear likely to play.

Captain Clarke was quick to point out after the series was clinched in Perth that team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris and doctor Peter Brukner have played crucial roles in keeping Australia's XI together.

Kountouris has ensured Clarke has only missed one Test in his career, despite chronic back problems, while Watson has credited Brukner for keeping him consistently on the field.

Fast bowler Peter Siddle couldn't back-up and play against South Africa at the WACA last summer, and Johnson too has had his injury problems over the years.

But Australia's medical men have helped enable coach Darren Lehmann to abandon the fast bowling rotation policy and pick his best XI throughout.

"A lot of things have played a part in us performing the way we have and that's one of them," Clarke said after Perth.

"Alex and the doc Peter have done a fantastic job in looking after the current crop in making sure we're as fit as we can be leading up and getting through Test matches."

WHAT AUSTRALIA CAN ACHIEVE IN SYDNEY
If Australia name an unchanged side to face England in Sydney they will create Test history by becoming:

*The first Australian side to keep the same side for the duration of a five-Test series

*The fourth international team to remain unchanged through a five-match campaign

*The first Australian side since 1989 (in what was a six-Test series) to field the same XI for five consecutive Tests in an Ashes series.

If Australia win the Test they will become:

*Just the third side in Ashes history to complete a 5-0 series whitewash. Australia also did it in 1920-21 and 2005-06

*And Australia will move up two places to No.3 on the Test rankings ahead of February's clash with the world's No.1 team South Africa.

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