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Cricket: Australia delays naming team to play England

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Captain Michael Clarke kept everyone guessing Wednesday about the final makeup of the Australia team for the opening Test against England, saying the selectors were still discussing it.

Most interest centres on whether spinner Nathan Lyon will play ahead of bowling allrounder James Faulkner in the final 11.

Lyon is favoured given the strong record of spinners at the Gabba, but Clarke said selection debates were still going on. Faulkner was a stand-out for Australia in their last Ashes Test at The Oval in August.

Clarke, who is no longer a selector, said he knew the batting order for the top seven, but would not be disclosing it until just before Thursday's start of the Gabba Test in Brisbane.

"The selectors are probably talking about it as we speak so it's probably a question for those guys," Clarke told his Test-eve media conference, where the team is usually announced.

"I can't talk about the selection part of it, because I'm not having that conversation right now with the selectors but the wicket looks fantastic.

"I think it looks a really good pitch, I think it's going to offer pace and bounce for the bowlers and that includes spin."

He continued: "The Gabba is one of the best Test wickets in the world to play, it... always keeps the bowlers interested and once you're in, it's as good a place to bat as anywhere."

Clarke said his players were keen to resume hostilities with their old enemy just three months after losing the last series 3-0 in England.

"The boys are all extremely excited, there's been a lot of talk since we've returned home from England about this series and I think all the boys are looking forward to finally getting out there tomorrow," he said.

"There's been a lot said in the build-up to this series, a lot of speculation about individual players, about teams and about how Australia is going to have success, how we are going to turn it around.

"But for us it's about coming out and playing our best cricket in five Test matches and hopefully the result will take care of itself.

"It's going to be a tough battle, like it was in England. We have to play our best cricket to have success no matter what conditions you play in. It's nice to be playing in front of our own fans."

Clarke has been under pressure in the Ashes build-up from the fallout over Ricky Ponting's autobiography, revelations of dressing-room disharmony under sacked coach Mickey Arthur and accusations the skipper has been amiss in the areas of teamwork and man-management.

When asked if he was bothered by the external criticism, Clarke said: "Not one bit."

He also refused to be drawn during his media conference on whether this was a different Australian side to the one that went down 3-0 to England just three months ago.

"I don't want to compare. Two completely different series. Different conditions. What is important is today; and tomorrow is important as well," he said.

"The belief is there and hopefully we'll show that over the next five Test matches."

rsm/ac

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131120/cricket-australia-delays-naming-team-play-england-0