Clarke encourages Warner return
Australia's captain Michael Clarke has given a decidedly strong indication he wants David Warner in his first Test team, despite the left-hander's lack of match preparation. It will now be a matter of whether or not the selectors agree with reinstating Warner immediately after his suspension for punching Joe Root, or demure for reasons of Test match readiness.
Speaking for the first time since the day of Mickey Arthur's replacement as the national team coach by Darren Lehmann and his resignation as a selector, Clarke expressed the staunch view that Warner has now served his punishment for events at the Walkabout in Birmingham during the Champions Trophy, and that the left-hander is not the kind of player to need matches behind him in order to feel confident.
Should Warner be chosen it will be in a middle order role, after Lehmann confirmed Shane Watson and Chris Rogers had been inked in as opening batsmen for the series. The concept of a powerful counter-puncher at No. 6 has grown on the tourists, though his selection would not only run contrary to Warner's lack of preparation but his form before that. Scores of 0, 0 and 9 in his three innings so far in Britain followed on from an indifferent IPL and a poor Test series against India.
"He's certainly served his punishment," Clarke said, echoing Lehmann's words about Warner having a "clean slate" under the new regime. "His punishment was no cricket up until the first Test match and now it's about working out what our best team is. I don't believe David won't be selected because of punishment. I think that's been dealt with. It'll be about working out our best team.
"Certainly the selectors are going to take into consideration that he hasn't played much cricket over the past couple of weeks but on the other side of that the type of player Davey is it's more about his mind being clear and playing with that intent. I don't think Dave is the type of player that needs two four day games to make some runs to feel confident.
"If he's in the right place batting well in the nets I'm confident if the selectors do decide to pick him he can walk straight out onto the first Test to make a hundred."
Apart from their fitness and persistence, Clarke and the selectors gained little in the way of relevant knowledge about their bowlers on the final day at New Road. It was a fitting name for the ground given the way the pitch behaved, steadfastly refusing to break up or offer anything but the most minimal assistance. There has been some speculation about Peter Siddle's place given a lack of wickets, but Clarke spoke generously of the most experienced fast bowler at his disposal.
"Form certainly helps but Sidds has been a strike weapon for us over the last couple of years," Clarke said. "The selectors will pick the best attack, you don't necessarily have to be one of the best bowlers, it will be a complementary attack that helps us have success in the conditions we're about to face. I think it's one of his strengths. But they will need to pick an attack, not an individual bowler."
While admittedly close to Arthur, Clarke said the team had settled quickly following Lehmann's appointment, and spoke happily of the displays put on against Somerset and Worcestershire, which suggested a team growing in confidence, unity and belief in their skills. For this he joined the rest of the squad in praising Lehmann, recalling their earlier time in the Test team together.
"We're talking more about old times, that's for sure," Clarke said. "I was lucky enough to play a fair bit of cricket with Darren so it's nice to be back talking cricket with him. He's got an amazing amount of knowledge about the game. I guess we've got a lot of similarities in the way we want to play. I had a great relationship with Mickey and I still do. The people who know Darren and know me know we were very close when we were playing as well.
"There's no doubt the boys have handled what's happened over the past month as well as they possibly could I think our momentum is slowly building. I think our performance in both four-dayers, there are a lot of positives to take out of both games. We're just about ready to play this first Test."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here