LONDON (AFP) – Australia captain Michael Clarke said Friday that David Warner could still feature in next week's first Test against England despite his recent ban.
Warner was suspended by Australian officials from all cricket until the Ashes opener at Trent Bridge after it was revealed he'd punched England's Joe Root in a Birmingham bar following the hosts Champions Trophy win over their arch-rivals.
The length of Warner's ban led to a widespread belief there was no realistic way the batsman, primarily an opener, could feature when Australia begin their bid to regain the Ashes in Nottingham on July 10.
Clarke stood down as a selector after Mickey Arthur was sacked as coach fewer than two weeks ago and replaced by Darren Lehmann.
That means the star batsman won't have a formal say in selecting the side to play England but his backing for Warner was clear after Australia settled for a draw in their final warm-up match against Worcestershire.
"I think he's served his punishment. His punishment was no cricket up to the first Test match," said Clarke. "Now it's about working out what our best team is. I don't believe David won't be selected because of punishment, I think that's been dealt with.
"The selectors will take into consideration that he hasn't played much cricket in the last couple of weeks but with Davey it's more about his mind being clear and playing with intent.
"I don't think Davey is the type of player that needs two four-day games to get runs and feel confident.
"If he's in the right place and batting well in the nets I have confidence that, if the selectors do pick him, he can walk straight into the first Test and make a hundred."
Clarke said Warner had knuckled down to training since his ban.
"He's had plenty of net sessions. He's been in the nets every day," Clarke explained. "Just looking at him now he looks a lot fitter than he has been and he's been working extra hard.
"It's been tough, no doubt, but he understood the consequences at the time and I think he handled himself really well."
Australia's selectors -- John Inverarity, Rodney Marsh and Lehmann -- also have to decide on the composition of their bowling attack.
The tourists only managed to take four wickets on the final day against Worcestershire, indicating Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson would take the new ball at Trent Bridge, with the likes of Peter Siddle, Jackson Bird and Ryan Harris vying for the remaining seam bowling spots.