Ashes 2013: Michael Clarke claims there is not 'much of a gap' between England and Australia

The hosts retained the Ashes yesterday after the third Test was drawn

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The Independent Online

Australia captain Michael Clarke denied there was any gulf in class between his side and England despite conceding the Ashes in just 14 days.

Rain on the final day of the third Investec Test in Manchester yesterday ensured England got the draw they needed to retain the little urn.

Australia have not conceded the Ashes this early in a series since 1929, but Clarke believes the speed with which his side's bid has evaporated was not reflective of the parity between the teams.

"I think we outplayed England in this Test match and I think England outplayed us in the first two Test matches," he said.

"I don't see much of a gap at all."

After allowing England to race into a 2-0 series lead, Australia were certainly the dominant force at Old Trafford only for the weather to spare the hosts a final-day battle with the bat.

Alastair Cook's side had slipped to 37 for three shortly after lunch before watching the clouds close in.

"You know when you come to the UK there is a chance that rain is going to play a part throughout the series," Clarke said.

"Getting ourselves into the position of being 2-0 down - it was always going to be tough coming back from that.

"But in saying that I certainly don't want to take any credit away from England. They outplayed us in the first two Test matches, especially at Lord's."

Australia will now be tasked with trying to square a series that moves to Chester-le-Street in Durham on Friday.

Clarke believes the improvements made this week, especially amongst his batsmen, will ensure Australia are capable of heading home for the reverse series this winter with a 2-2 scoreline.

"That's definitely our goal," he said.

"If we can level the series we will take a lot of confidence back to Australia.

"I'm confident if we play the type of cricket that we have through the four days here that we will give it a real good shake."

Clarke hinted that Shane Watson could be pushed down the order for the fourth Test in favour of David Warner.

Watson dropped to four in the second innings in Manchester, as Australia chased quick runs, but it is a situation that could remain after the 32-year-old has so far struggled to impose himself at the top of the order.

"It's a tough one. It's working out what is best for the team and giving Watto the opportunity to play where he feels most comfortable," he said.

"If he's scoring runs and taking wickets it goes a long way towards helping us win Test matches.

"We'll continue to talk and assess what's the best for the team.

"Shane understood my reasoning for opening the batting with Davey in the second innings and was more than happy to move to number four.

"He has made it very clear that wherever I would like him to bat he will certainly do that for the team."

Clarke also played down any suggestion Australia were unhappy with any perceived delaying tactics by England during the Test in Manchester.

"I don't think it had any effect on the game at all," he said. "It's irrelevant."