sport

Warner could face England - Clarke

David Warner may line up against England sooner than expected after Michael Clarke backed him to return for the first Ashes Test.

Warner's whole series was in doubt when it came to light he had punched England's Joe Root in a Birmingham night-spot following a Champions Trophy meeting between the sides at Edgbaston.

Ultimately Cricket Australia chose to suspend him from action up to but not including Wednesday's curtain-raiser at Trent Bridge, though most observers felt a lack of match practise would count against him in selection.

The top six picked for the final warm-up game at Worcestershire all made half-centuries but Clarke, who top-scored with 124, believes Warner can play - and succeed - if picked.

Australia skipper Clarke himself is not involved in the decision having stood down as a selector when former coach Mickey Artur was sacked less than two weeks ago, but his opinion is sure to carry weight.

"I think he's served his punishment. His punishment was no cricket up to the first Test match," said Clarke after his side settled for a draw against Worcestershire at New Road to complete their preparations.

"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.

"The selectors will take into consideration that he hasn't played much cricket in the last couple of weeks but with Davey it's more about his mind being clear and playing with intent.

"I don't think Davey is the type of player that needs two four-day games to runs and feel confident.

"If he's in the right place and batting well in the nets I have confidence that, if the selectors do pick him, he can walk straight into the first Test and make a hundred."

If anything, Clarke appeared to suggest that the incident with Root ended up being good for Warner.

It has certainly forced him to confront his disciplinary issues and Clarke now sees a more dedicated squad member.

"He's had plenty of net sessions. He's been in the nets every day," said Clarke.

"Just looking at him now he looks a lot fitter than he has been and he's been working extra hard.

"It's been tough, no doubt, but he understood the consequences at the time and I think he handled himself really well."

As well as the Warner issue, the Australia selectors - Arthur's replacement Darren Lehmann, Rod Marsh and John Inverarity - must also determine how best to balance the attack.

None of those who appeared at Worcester will have furthered their case significantly as they took just four wickets on the final day to settle for a draw.

That leaves James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc virtually assured of sharing the new ball, while the off-colour Peter Siddle goes head to head with Jackson Bird and Ryan Harris, who struggled to extract much from a tame New Road deck.