Cricket-Cagey Clarke gives nothing away on Ashes eve

By Nick Mulvenney BRISBANE, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Australia captain Michael Clarke said he was not going to promise his country "the world" on the eve of the first Ashes test on Wednesday. In fact, the 32-year-old offered almost nothing by way of insight into Australia's preparations in his final news conference before the battle with England resumes at the Gabba on Thursday. Clarke would put to shame many politicians with his ability to talk without giving much away and his caution is perhaps understandable given he leads a team which has lost seven and drawn two of its last nine tests. England were responsible for three of those defeats and shared the two draws in the opening rubber of the unique Ashes double-header earlier this year to retain the coveted urn for the second successive series. So, despite a palpable sense of renewed optimism in the Australia camp, Clarke was not going to be drawn into leaving any hostages to fortune. "I'm not going to sit here and promise the world and tell you everything's going to be different," Clarke told reporters. "It's going to be a tough battle like it was in England, we have to play our best cricket to have success no matter what conditions we're playing in." Clarke swatted aside any questions about the England team with the same briskness he will hope to punish any loose bowling from the English over the next seven weeks. Australia named a 12-man squad for the test last week and, with better news about Shane Watson's ability to bowl, the only question is whether they go with a fourth paceman in James Faulkner or a spinner in Nathan Lyon. Clarke made it very clear that as he is no longer a selector it would not be his call, but strongly suggested Australia should go with Lyon at the Gabba, where England have not won a test since 1986. "The wicket looks fantastic, I think it's a really good pitch, I think it's going to offer pace and bounce for the bowlers, and that includes spin," he said. "I think spin's had success at the Gabba because of the bounce rather than the spin. "It's one of the best wickets in the world to play test cricket on because it does offer good pace and bounce so your bowlers are always interested ... but once you get in, it's as good a place to bat as anywhere in the world. "I wouldn't imagine the conversation is about the conditions, I think it's probably about choosing the best 11 to help us win this test match." As for Watson, Clarke said the all-rounder was making good progress with his recovery from a hamstring injury and would probably contribute something with the ball during the test. "I don't think he'll be 100 percent and can bowl 25 overs in the first innings of a test match," he said. "But as we've seen Watto's improved every day and I'm really confident he'll be able to bat at his best and do a job with the ball for us." As for his other comments, Clarke offered that the uncapped George Bailey "was a great guy to have around", while his take on the influence of coach Darren Lehmann was the revelatory insight that "Boof's Boof". A ripple of expectation went around the room when Clarke said the batting order had been decided but he dashed the hopes of the media when he said it would not be "right" to announce it before the team was named at the toss on Thursday morning. (Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)