Michael Clarke's back and suddenly Aussies are enjoying life

With a new coach and a fit captain the tourists are looking forward to the Ashes at long last

For the first time in an age, Australia must have felt the world had stopped conspiring against them. Perhaps arriving in the bucolic county town of Taunton has that effect, perhaps it was a turning point.

Apart from that, the declaration by their captain, Michael Clarke, of his fitness to play in the first match of their Ashes tour against Somerset will have made them slightly more chipper. Clarke's chronic back condition, which kept him out of the entire Champions Trophy campaign in the past fortnight, has at last responded to the intensive treatment he has been receiving.

Given the recurrent nature of the complaint there is no certainty yet that he will be there for the first Test against England at Trent Bridge, which starts a fortnight today, but it is a significant step in that direction. After the series of setbacks since their arrival in England, which culminated in the sacking of their coach Mickey Arthur on Monday, it was exactly what the squad needed to hear.

Brad Haddin, the vice-captain, said after the Test squad's first practice under Darren Lehmann, the newly installed coach: "It's great news. It's the first game on tour and obviously the Australia captain is pretty excited to play. He is in a good spot. He took a good catch and had a bit of a hit. I didn't watch much because I was in the next net but all in all that is the level we went with and we are ready to go."

Clarke and Lehmann may prove to be the dream team that Australia have been seeking. Without the former, it is virtually certain that their Ashes campaign is doomed to failure. Since officially assuming the captaincy in September 2011 he has scored almost 20 per cent of the side's runs.

He has been constantly bullish about his back with the team in such a beleaguered state in the past month. There seems now to be a determination to put everything behind them and to ensure that Arthur's departure represents a new beginning.

Haddin said: "It's not hard to have a smile on your face today, it's the first day of an Ashes campaign. It was significant because it was the first training session of an Ashes tour. This is the most exciting tour you could possibly be on. The whole theatre about an Ashes campaign is second to none so you don't need any more motivation to go out and train on day one."

Australia had no compunction about naming the players who will start against Somerset in the four-day match and Haddin reeled off the names. There is no place for the veteran batsman Chris Rogers, who has been recalled to the Ashes squad after playing a solitary Test five years ago. But little should be read into that.

Rogers has played a lot of cricket in English conditions for Middlesex already this season and is in supreme form. It is impossible to think that Australia will ignore his craft and experience at this late stage and those lining up in Taunton, such as Usman Khawaja and Phil Hughes know they are batting for a place.

There may be an opener's place up for grabs alongside Ed Cowan, with David Warner banned until the Test starts. The selectors must be tempted to return Shane Watson to the top of the order, where he has had his greatest Test success.

Beyond the team, there seems to be a definite closing of ranks and an urgency not to add to the sense of haplessness that has engulfed them. They failed to win any of their three matches in the Champions Trophy, in which they were hammered by England, and they were then subject to harsh criticism after their opening batsman punched the England batsman, Joe Root, in a Birmingham bar.

When Warner was suspended, the dressing room culture was derided and it fell just short of questions being asked in the House back at home. Ultimately, Arthur as coach paid the price with his job. Lehmann is clearly a popular choice.

Mike Hussey, recently retired from international cricket, did not try to conceal the fact that things went wrong when he was playing. But he said from his home in Perth that they were dealt with quietly.

"I thought the culture in the team was pretty good. I enjoyed it. It was always a tough ask for Michael to take over from someone like Ricky Ponting. I think he has done a great job and I think we have got the guy s there if we concentrate on what's really important.

"There are always little issues and things along the way – no question – but we just tried to deal with them as quickly and precisely as we possibly could. Certainly there were always things that went wrong or players that stepped out of line but they were always dealt with quickly and in house."

Although Clarke, who has asked to be relieved of his selection duties, might seem under pressure, there is a growing wave of support for him. Hussey rebuffed rumours of a split dressing room and there is an obvious desire to ensure the turbulence is stemmed for good.

"I think he has got a great cricket brain and is very sound," Hussey said. "There was always method to what he was trying to do, often seeing things that were happening before other people could. He had a very clear path in his mind of where he wanted to take the team and that is the sign of a good leader." His country have never needed Clarke more.

Only with Sky Sports can you watch 116 live Barclays Premier League matches, the Lions tour, the Ashes and Formula 1 in HD and on mobile and tablet devices

Ashes warm-up: Australians' team

Australia XI to face Somerset in Taunton:

Age/Caps

Ed Cowan 31/17

Shane Watson 32/41

Usman Khawaja 26/6

Phillip Hughes 24/24

Michael Clarke (captain) 32/92

Brad Haddin 35/44

James Faulkner 23/0

Peter Siddle 28/41

Nathan Lyon 25/22

James Pattinson 23/10

Mitchell Starc 23/9

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain