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Clarke gets Ashes boost from Ponting

Michael Clarke could have the edge over Shane Watson in the fight for a place in the first Ashes Test, provided Australia's bowlers are in top form coming into the match. However, Ricky Ponting said Watson might get the nod if there is any doubt over the fast men's form.

"It really could just depend on how I or our selectors feel the bowling group is going," Ponting said in the Sydney Morning Herald. "If we've got three quicks going well and Warney bowling well, that's really been the tried and tested method we've had over the years.

"If those guys are going well for you, you'd think Clarke would have his nose in front as a specialist batsman. If we've got some doubt about the bowlers, we might need another option, and Watson's probably got his nose in front there."

The first Test starts at the Gabba on November 23 and the ground's curator Kevin Mitchell Jr said at the weekend the pitch was unlikely to be a spinner's paradise. "I think we'll see plenty of pace and bounce out of this wicket, which traditionally favours the seamers, so that could be the way to go," he told The Courier-Mail. "It's always going to be a new-ball wicket so you probably want an attack that can make the most of that. If you don't get the batsmen out early you could be in a bit of strife so you might need the quicks to get stuck into them."

That could hurt Stuart MacGill's chances of playing alongside Shane Warne, which in turn would mean less demand for Watson's bowling if three fast men get the nod. It may also help the left-armer Mitchell Johnson's bid to make his Test debut on his home ground.