Battle for urn begins

Battle for urn begins

Battle for urn begins

It’s mine! England captain Andrew Strauss (left) and his Australian counterpart Ricky Ponting with the Ashes urn. Reuters

Badly hit by injuries and form slumps, Australia named a bumper 17-strong squad nine days ago, then a slimmed down 13-man version at the weekend before being forced to supplement that with Usman Khawaja as cover for the injured Clarke.

So it was doubtless with some relief that skipper Ricky Ponting was able to announce a starting XI for the first Test, which starts on Thursday.

"We have got a team," Ponting told a news conference. "Doug Bollinger and Usman Khawaja are the two who are not playing.

"Michael Clarke's got through his work particularly well in the last few days, had a long, solid session in the nets today so he's come through pretty well and Dougie's the unlucky quick who misses out."

Clarke had been suffering from a recurrence of a back problem that has dogged him for much of his career and missed training on Monday.  The return of his vice captain and anointed successor -- not to mention a top order batsman with 64 Tests and 4,549 runs to his name -- will be a huge boost to Ponting as he looks to take the fight to England.

"We've done enough talking, enough training, enough preparation, it's game time and we're all excited about that," said the 35-year-old, who is keen to avoid the ignominy of being the first Australia captain to lose three Ashes series.

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