Ashes - Clarke: Time for talking to stop

Michael Clarke believes it is time for the talking to stop between Australia and England with the start of the Ashes just hours away.

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Alastair Cook, Michael Clarke (Reuters)

Clarke did manage to convey his confidence that Shane Watson will be able to bowl at some point in the first Test at the Gabba in a press conference, but otherwise his 13-minute appearance turned into an exercise in saying as little as possible.

On subjects varying from Stuart Broad, to Mitchell Johnson and Kevin Pietersen and several more, precious few of the Australia captain's responses merit repeat.

And this after a build-up that has at times proved rather acrimonious, with Broad targeted by the Australian media and Shane Warne repeatedly doubting Alastair Cook's captaincy credentials.

The occasion of this Ashes rematch loomed large, and Clarke clearly saw no need to add extra spice to an occasion already captivating this country.

It will be closely followed too, of course, by a few million or so in another land 10,000 miles away.

In the thick of the action, set to get under way at midnight on Wednesday in England, Clarke at least confirmed his team's readiness to try to stop the Ashes staying in English hands for a fourth successive time.

"The boys are obviously extremely excited ... looking forward to tomorrow, finally getting out there, after all the talk about this series," he said. "There's been a lot said about the build-up to this series, speculation about players, how Australia are going to turn it around.

"I'm not going to sit here and promise the world, tell you everything is going to be different. Our job is to perform at our best, and hope the result will take care of itself. I think the belief is there, and I hope we'll show that over the next five Test matches."

Watson and the readiness of George Bailey, for his Test debut at the age of 31, are the two topics on which Clarke was minded to engage specifically.

Watson's recovery from a hamstring strain appears likely to be more or less complete in the nick of time, and unsurprisingly Clarke expects Bailey to quickly feel at home in Test cricket.

Meanwhile, skipper Alastair Cook accepts England will probably need to raise their game a notch or two to win a fourth straight Ashes series but almost scoffed at suggestions the tourists were running scared.

Despite the first Ashes series of the year having concluded so recently, the war of words before the second five-match encounter has been as intense as ever and Australia's David Warner said this week that he detected fear in the tourists.

England have good reason to feel confident having dominated the home Ashes series 3-0 and Cook said his experienced side were taking all the pre-match hype in their stride.

"We certainly don't fear anyone, that's quite clear by the way we go about our business," he said at the Gabba, where the first Test gets underway.

"We're a very competitive side and there's no reason to fear any side out there. We don't really concentrate on what people say about us, it's about how we play in that first hour tomorrow.

"There's been a lot of words said, but when it comes to 10 o'clock tomorrow morning, that's all irrelevant."

England's one injury concern before the first Test is the strained calf of wicketkeeper Matt Prior but Cook sounded reasonably confident that stand-in Jonny Bairstow would not be required.

"He's (Prior) got the last part of his fitness to go now, yesterday he trained really well and came through all that we asked of him," he said.

"With leg injuries, it's usually about how you pull up the next day after a rigorous session. We'll know pretty soon."

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