Watto or Marsh a very tough call: Clarke

Michael Clarke has floated the prospect of duelling allrounders Shane Watson or Mitch Marsh both playing next week’s Ashes opener.

Watson and Marsh have been locked in a selection showdown since landing in London.

It continued in Chelmsford on Friday.

Watson was trapped lbw for six by a full toss, while Marsh played on trying to hammer a delivery through the covers when he was on 37.

At stumps on day three of Australia’s final Ashes tune-up, the visitors were 8-212 and boasting a 360-run lead.

Clarke scored 77, spending over three hours in the middle in his longest innings for Australia since undergoing hamstring surgery last December.

But all eyes were on Watson and Marsh when Essex resumed at 3-299.

“They both have unbelievable strengths,” Clarke said.

“All you can do is score runs and take wickets and fight your way to be on the selectors’ minds.

“Maybe the selectors might find a way to fit both in the team.

“But it’s going to be tough.

“It’s a good problem to have – having everyone in form.”

The reality is only one allrounder is likely to line up on Wednesday, when the Ashes starts in Cardiff.

Dropping Adam Voges would be the only way of squeezing both Watson and Marsh into the XI.

Clarke confirmed Ryan Harris, who was sent for further knee scans on Friday, won’t be right for the first Test.

It means the visitors are set to name an unchanged pace attack of Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.

The only remaining issue is whether Chris Rogers or Shaun Marsh open the batting alongside David Warner.

“Marsh played in Kent and made a hundred, Chris Rogers looks like he’s in great touch,” Clarke said.

“There’s a couple of really tough selections coming up.”

None tougher than the allrounder berth.

Marsh struck twice with the ball on Friday, removing centurion Ravi Bopara and dangerman Jesse Ryder to help his side take a first-innings lead of 148 runs.

Watson was unable to bowl, but Clarke noted that was due to Starc’s six wickets more than anything else.

“Not many others could take the ball out of his hands,” Clarke said of Starc, who grabbed 4-5 as he sliced through the tail.

In this instance neither allrounder helped Clarke, who scored 77, rebuild after the visitors slumped to 3-65 against Essex.

But the skipper suggested both had plenty to offer in England.

“Mitch has worked extremely hard … he’s lost weight. He’s fit and strong and playing some really good cricket,” Clarke said.

“Watto’s obviously batted beautifully in this first innings here and also in the tour game against Kent.

“And we saw yesterday how important his consistency is with the ball.”

Clarke received scant support with the bat, but he wasn’t concerned about the top order’s collapse of 4-59.

“The wicket’s extremely two paced now,” he said.

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