Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

England's axing of Nick Compton is a big bonus to Australia

Australia captain Michael Clarke shares some jokes with former England captain's Ian Botham

Australia captain Michael Clarke has warned England they may have erred by axing Nick Compton for the Ashes.

The hosts acted ruthlessly by dropping Compton for the first Investec Test, a call apparently based on two stuttering performances against New Zealand at the start of the summer.

Joe Root will open when the series gets under way at Trent Bridge today, with fellow Yorkshireman Jonny Bairstow slotting into the middle order, a decision that left Compton to claim he had "not been given a fair crack of the whip" after nine appearances.

He played in both of Australia's pre-Test warm-ups, first for employers Somerset and then on a one-off basis for Worcestershire, scoring 220 runs at 55 but was still not reprieved – a decision that left Clarke surprised.

"We haven't bowled to Joe yet, but we didn't manage to get Nick out that easily, so I'm happy he's not playing, to be honest," said Clarke.

"I think Nick showed over the last couple of four-day matches that he's got a lot of class; he's got a very good defence and I'm surprised he's not in the first Test team for England."

Australia may find their own chosen XI raises eyebrows if they opt to let David Warner loose in the middle order.

Less than a month ago Warner was fined £7,000 and banned up until the start of the Ashes having punched Root in a Birmingham bar hours after England's 48-run win in the Champions Trophy.

At the time his whole tour seemed in doubt, with most observers deeming the first Test a near impossibility given a lack of match practice.

But the arrival of Darren Lehmann as coach has seen a sea change and noises from within the camp are that Warner would be welcomed in the first XI this week.

Clarke, no longer a selector since stepping down two weeks ago, backed Warner but gave no hints as to how Australia would line up.

"Obviously he hasn't played any four-day cricket, but if David is selected I'm confident he'll have success. I'm as convinced as I can be," he said.

"I can tell you I do know the 11 that are playing tomorrow, but at this stage we're not going to announce the team.

"To me, the most important people that need to know what the XI is know, and that's the players, so they can prepare mentally. But in regards to everybody else, one more sleep's not going to hurt anybody I wouldn't have thought."

Warner's chief rival would appear to be Steve Smith, but it would be possible to accommodate both if Ed Cowan lost his place in the top three.

The only other question surrounds the third seamer, with Peter Siddle thought to be marginally ahead of Jackson Bird and Ryan Harris.

Clarke was grilled on a variety of subjects on the eve of the match, from the state of his back, to the role of reverse swing and even the impact of Andy Murray's Wimbledon win on the series.

He answered everything courteously, but left little doubt that the time for debate was over.

"We've talked about a lot but I think the talking is done for us as a team now," he said.

"Our preparation's finished. Our team meetings are done. Our knowledge on the England team is done. Now, as I said to the guys last night, it's not what you say, it's what you do."

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