Faulkner to debut, Starc returns

Australia

Captain Michael Clarke has defended Australia's selection policy, as the makeup of the batting order for the fifth and final Ashes Test briefly remained in the balance on Tuesday.

Captain Michael Clarke has defended Australia's selection policy, as the makeup of the batting order for the fifth and final Ashes Test briefly remained in the balance on Tuesday.

All-rounder Shane Watson, the right-handed Steven Smith and the left-handed Usman Khawaja endured familiar failures in the fourth fixture in Durham, where England romped to a 74-run triumph – and insurmountable three-nil series lead.

The hard-hitting David Warner has gathered some promise at the top of the order, while the discarded Phil Hughes and Ed Cowan remained hopeful of a return to the XI in London. The inexperienced Matthew Wade, too, was tipped to play as a specialist batsman.

All-rounder James Faulkner's debut has been confirmed, though – after Khawaja was dropped, with Watson promoted to three. Left-armer Mitchell Starc will replace right-armer Jackson Bird.

"I know there's been a lot of talk back home about consistency of selection but the selectors are trying to do everything in their power to help us win and if guys aren't performing, unfortunately you can't select them," said Clarke.

"We're trying, or the selectors, I guess, are trying to be as consistent as they can but we're also here to win the game. But, I've said it before, I'll say it again, we've got blokes with the talent there that can do it.

"This is not a charity tour. It's not about giving blokes a go and hoping for the best. All the selectors can do is pick what they feel is the best XI but it's up to us as players to do our job and unfortunately our batting has let us down throughout the series so far.

"So far on this tour James has scored some very handy runs for us. I think he has been dismissed once in his last five or six innings – he is a tough competitor. At this stage of his career he is a bowler who can certainly make some handy runs. He is an allrounder. He provides that package for us."

Clarke met with coach Darren Lehmann, vice-captain Brad Haddin, fast bowlers Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris, national selector Rod Marsh and team manager Gavin Dovey earlier this week, with the result unanimous.

"It was more or less about us standing up as senior players and leading from the front. It was a reminder that we continue on and off the field to lead the way. It is more important when things aren't going to plan," he added.

England have suffered batting problems of their own. While the in-form Ian Bell has romped through three centuries, opener Joe Root, captain Alastair Cook and middle-order upstart Jonny Bairstow have averaged just 37.14, 29.00 and 27.25 respectively.

"Apart from Bell, no-one else has really blitzed the batting. But you've just got to keep fighting. You've got to find a way to get as many as you can. We will put in a good fight, as will they," concluded Clarke.

Spinner Ashton Agar was not considered for selection, instead returning to Australia for treatment.

"Ashton has had a mild viral illness for the past week and needs some time to rest and recuperate. It has been a long tour and while he has handled the pressure extremely well," said team doctor Peter Brukner.

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