Michael Clarke ponders new-ball pairing

Mitchell Johnson was all over England with the new ball in the most recent Ashes, but the left-armer could be demoted to first-change bowler this week.

Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood all had stints with the new rock in Australia’s recent 2-0 series win over the West Indies.

Speaking on the eve of the Ashes opener, which starts at 8pm (AEST) on Wednesday, Michael Clarke was unsure who would be given the all-important job against England.

“I don’t know yet. That’s going to be dictated by the wicket and the breeze when we bowl,” Clarke said.

Recently-retired paceman Ryan Harris tipped the left-armers would be given the first chance to shine under overcast skies.

“But then Hazlewood won’t be far away,” he told radio station RSN.

Johnson would have previously been aggrieved if he wasn’t tasked with the responsibility.

But the 33-year-old recognises young guns Starc and Hazlewood had formed a formidable new-ball partnership in Jamaica.

“That seemed to work really well,” he said last week.

“I know being a youngster, you want to get that new ball in your hand and I used to get a bit frustrated when I didn’t.

“But I’ve been able to learn from those experiences and learn to be patient .. it’s no big deal to me.”

Starc started with a loose wide in last week’s tour game against Essex, but finished with nine wickets including a couple of unplayable yorkers.

Clarke has never seen the 25-year-old so confident with the red ball in his hands.

“He’s at the top of his game now – he’s bowling fast, he’s swinging it and he’s got the consistency,” he said.

“Both (Johnson and Starc) would love to open the bowling, but they’re not bothered.”

Starc and Hazlewood both made poor first impressions on day two of the clash with Essex, but bowling coach Craig McDermott was pleased with how they settled in Chelmsford.

“He and Josh basically had two-and-a-half weeks (from playing) … so they just took a little bit of time to get back into their rhythm,” McDermott said.

“They both bowled very well in the second innings in Essex, so pretty happy with their preparation.”

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