Clarke unconcerned by spinners' struggles
Australia's captain Michael Clarke has defended his spin bowlers Nathan Lyon and Fawad Ahmed after both were subjected to considerable punishment in the tourists' opening two tour matches ahead of the Tests against England.
After Fawad had been brazenly attacked by Kent's Daniel Bell-Drummond in Canterbury, Lyon was similarly handled by Essex's Tom Westley and Ravi Bopara at Chelmsford. All were motivated by the fact that slow bowlers represented some scoring opportunities and relief from the threat of Australia's pacemen.
Clarke, however, was unperturbed by the way his tweakers had been treated, reasoning that on small county grounds and flat pitches there was always the chance a batsman can succeed when chancing his arm. Shane Warne suffered similar hidings in early tour matches past, before thriving in the Tests.
"Lyono's going really well - I thought he bowled pretty well yesterday," Clarke said. "It's the way the wicket is more than anything else. There wasn't much in it the first innings but I think you'll see a lot more for him in the second innings, it'll spin a lot more, there's more inconsistent bounce.
"Lyono will be a lot harder to face then, but he understands that's part and parcel of playing over here, and 'Fuzz' is the same. In these conditions generally you're going to go for more runs than you do in Australia on bigger grounds and slower outfields, but it gives you the opportunity to take wickets as well."
Casting his eye over the race for Australia's allrounder spot, Clarke said both Mitchell Marsh and Shane Watson had made strong cases for inclusion, noting the younger man's dedication in recent times but also the guile his former vice-captain could offer with the ball in particular.
"Mitch has worked extremely hard at the NCC before we even went to the West Indies, I was up there for a couple of weeks with him," Clarke said. "He's lost weight, he's fit, he's strong and playing some really good cricket.
"Watto's batted beautifully in the first innings here and in the tour game in Kent, and we saw yesterday how important his consistency is with the ball. Who knows, the selectors might find a way to get both in the team, but it's going to be tough, that's for sure."
As for his own batting touch, Clarke was grateful for some extra time in the middle on day three in Chelmsford, but stressed that he had felt positive about the way he was moving at the crease ever since the start of the West Indies tour.
"I worked really hard in the West Indies, didn't get a big score but felt good, and since I've been here I've felt pretty good, my feet are moving well," he said. "So it was nice to spend some more time in the middle but for me it's about building up to that first Test. Really comfortable with where my game's at."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig