The Ashes: England have merely landed the first blow, asserts Clarke

Peter Nevill during a nets session ahead of the Second Investec Ashes Test at Lord's, London.
Peter Nevill during a nets session ahead of the Second Investec Ashes Test at Lord's, London.
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AUSTRALIA captain Michael Clarke insists England have yet to land a knockout punch in the Ashes and expects his side to bounce back at Lord’s.

Clarke’s team were firm favourites to retain the urn heading into the series, only to lose by 169 runs in the opening Test at the SSE Swalec.

Since then the tourists have had plenty on their plate, with seamer Mitchell Starc needing painkilling injections in his right ankle, wicketkeeper Brad Haddin withdrawing for personal reasons and all-rounder Shane Watson seemingly set for the axe.

Clarke accepts the hosts have landed the first blow but is ready to take up the counter-attack.

“You’ve got to cop a few smacks in the mouth. In Cardiff, round one, we got beaten. Round two? I’m not so sure,” he said.

“Through your career it’s a rollercoaster ride, in life, number one, and then in cricket. If you want to be the best, if you want to play at the highest level, you’ve got to deal with that.

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“I’ve got a sense we need to turn things around right now in this Test match.

“Looking at our preparation in England and looking at the boys’ attitude in training there’s no reason we can’t do that in this Test match.

“If you have got the right attitude you will turn things around.”

As well as toying with a boxing analogy, Clarke also looked to the world of tennis to talk up the Australian challenge.

He might have mis-remembered the precise order of events, but Clarke found reason for cheer in the to-and-fro nature of Novak Djokovic’s Wimbledon final success over Roger Federer.

“I watched Roger Federer play Novak Djokovic the other day and in the first set I was certain Roger was going to win...second set I wasn’t so certain,” he said.

“That’s sport right there, the highs and lows.

“We lost the first Test, we can say things didn’t go our way but it’s up to us turn it around.”

Australia have already confirmed Haddin’s absence, though Clarke did indicate he could be welcomed back later in the series, but are being less straightforward over Watson’s likely omission.

Reports from the Australian media have been uniform in their certainty that the 34-year-old, whose lbw habit reared its head twice in Wales, will be replaced by Mitchell Marsh.

At his pre-match press conference, Clarke said he had yet to be given the side by the selectors, but dropped heavy hints that he would be dissatisfied had the news been relayed first to reporters.

“I don’t know what the XI is so I don’t know how anybody else does at this stage, unless the selectors have spoken to the media before they’ve spoken to the captain and the team,” he said, when pressed about Watson. “I’ve probably felt like that my whole career, not just in my captaincy.

“It’s just the way the world works in terms of social media and the amount of journalists you can see in the room.

“There’s people everywhere – there’s normally someone at breakfast, someone in the corner of your bedroom... decisions are made and if things have been leaked they’ve been leaked, but I can honestly tell you right now I don’t know the XI playing in this Test match.

“Whatever the selectors go with, I am really confident that within this squad we can find a way to win this Test match.”

Starc, who took seven wickets at Cardiff, looks set to play providing he feels no adverse effects after a final session in the nets.

“I spoke to him and he was completely fine,” he said. “That’s a real positive for us.

“He was pretty sore throughout the game but managed to get through and took seven wickets. He’s pretty crucial for us.”