Michael Clarke has blasted his way to a fine century in the tour match against Worcestershire with the First Ashes Test now only a few days away.

Clarke was back to his imperious best as he scored 124 in 98 balls, including 16 fours and three sixes in a timely confidence boost not only for him, but for the whole Ashes squad with the First Test to start on July 10.

His fellow batsman Phil Hughes was glowing in his praise of his skipper, giving an insight into just what the captain means to the side.

Hughes told FoxSports: "It makes a real good statement. He had been out of the game for around three months."

Clarke has had a history of back issues which forced him to miss the final Test of the India series, but in Hughes' eyes, those problems now appear to be well behind the Australian Captain.

"I thought he was very good running between the wickets, and he was swinging at the end as well, which would loosen up his back nicely.

"His back is coming along really good, he's doing a lot of treatment on it, he's moving fine and pulling up fine which is good."

Clarke's form is just what the side needs as he is coming off the most sensational last couple of years and is arguably the finest batsman on the planet.

Clarke averaged over 100 in 2012 with eight centuries in total. Of these three were converted into double hundreds, while he also scored a majestic 329* against India at the SCG.

With figures like these, it shows just how valuable the Captain is to the side and how highly valuable his wicket will be for England throughout the series.

It looks highly likely that Clarke will bat at number four throughout the series and with Shane Watson and Chris Rogers already having been confirmed as the openers for the touring side, it leaves the crucial No.3 role and the other middle order positions seemingly up for grabs.

No.3 seems to be a straight fight between former opener Ed Cowan and former New South Wales and now Queensland batsman Usman Khawaja.

Cowan with his Test match experience is seen to have the edge, but Khawaja cannot be completely disregarded as his former state coach Lehmann is now in charge of the national side.

Lehmann was the coach who convinced Khawaja to leave the New South Wales set up and go to Queensland and is believed to be a real favourite of the new national coach.

David Warner and his recent suspension for punching England player Joe Root could seemingly cost him his place in the side.

Warner was going to be a certain selection as an attacking No.6, but the fine form on tour of Steven Smith has led to increasing calls for the youngster to be given a crack at taking up the role.

Smith has been impressive recently, compiling a polished 92 on the ill-fated tour of India, but it has been his form so far on the tour of england that has really forced the selectors into a difficult decision.

He scored a sparkling 133 for Australia A against Ireland and has followed that up with impressive knocks of 68* and 43 against Worcestershire.

Smith is now seen as a real chance to play in the First Test and will provide the Australians with a consummate player of spin bowling and a further right handed batting option.

It is no secret that Australia are worried about the number of left handers in their line up, especially with the great record England off spinner Graeme Swann has against left handed batsmen.

Smith is viewed as the man who could possibly blunt the effectiveness of the off spinner which could be a key battle as Australia looks to recapture the urn.

The First Test is due to begin on the 10th of July at Trent Bridge. 


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