Shane Warne expects Michael Clarke will revert to No.5 in the order when Australia seek to keep the Ashes alive in Nottingham.
Setting the batting order is one of Clarke’s many responsibilities as captain, but rarely has the decision been so important.
Clarke has long been mired in a batting funk, while his team were largely woeful with the willow in the third Test.
The eight-wicket loss at Edgbaston gave England a 2-1 lead in the five-Test series, meaning they will reclaim the urn with victory at Trent Bridge.
Clarke will be given until at least the end of the series to find form, but the question remains whether he has a greater chance of doing that at No.5 instead of No.4.
Shaun Marsh, likely to be promoted to the XI at the expense of Adam Voges, could bat in either position when the fourth Test starts on Thursday.
Clarke played the majority of his career at No.5, but shifted up a spot in 2013 and has largely struggled since.
“I believe that the fourth Test at Trent Bridge will turn out to be his moment,” Warne wrote in his column for The Sunday Times.
“Voges will make way for Shaun Marsh, who will bat at four with Clarke at five.
“This would have the double advantage of Clarke playing in a position where he has a good record and Marsh, the left-hander, acting as a useful buffer between two key right-handers.”
Ricky Ponting countered that such a shift would send “the wrong message to England”.
“If I were an opposition captain and saw that happen I would know I’d had a victory,” Ponting said in The Australian.
“You have to have your best players higher in the order.”
Clarke and coach Darren Lehmann were both tightlipped about the issue on the weekend.
Clarke vowed to do what is best for the team and wait for an XI, Lehmann noted he will support any order that Clarke comes up with.
Pressure will continue to build on Clarke, who declared after the third Test he was yet to contemplate retirement, with every failed innings.
Lehmann declared last Saturday that Clarke would be given “as long as he needs” to find form.
Jason Gillespie, writing for The Guardian, suggested Clarke’s time may be up if he fails to deliver in the next two Tests.
“Questions will rightly be asked – that is the nature of the beast. No player should be immune from this,” Gillespie opined.
“He must be judged on his output, which is run-making.”
Clarke started the Ashes tour with scores of 56, 47, zero and 77 in tour games against Kent and Essex.
The 34-year-old has had a couple of starts in the Test series, but always looked scratchy.
“We’re quite confident that he’ll come good in this series,” batting coach Michael Di Venuto said.
Di Venuto pointed to Ian Bell’s two half-centuries in the third Test as an example of how quickly things can turn.
“Class is permanent,” Di Venuto said.
“The skipper is a hard trainer and he’s doing all the right things.
“You don’t lose your class.”
WHERE TO FOR MICHAEL CLARKE?
*Overall record: 8605 runs from 113 Tests at average of 49.73
*No.4 record: 1730 runs from 36 Tests at average of 30.89
*No.5 record: 5936 runs from 70 Tests at average of 61.83.