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Aussie issues of no concern to Cook

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Alastair Cook spoke to the media as the first Test in Brisbane draws near

England will be wasting no time before the start of the Ashes trying to second-guess Michael Clarke's fitness for the Gabba.

The Australia vice-captain's participation remains in doubt today as he tries to recover from a back injury in time to take part in the series opener starting on Thursday.

Clarke came through a light batting session, mostly from throwdowns, in the nets this morning and did not appear in significant discomfort at any point.

Australia yesterday called potential debutant Usman Khawaja into their squad as cover, and have since released leg-spinning all-rounder Steve Smith to shrink the numbers back to 13.

Clarke's opposite number Alastair Cook has made it clear, though, that England will be equally ready to bowl at either Clarke or Khawaja.

"We've prepared both ways - whether he plays or not, we're focused on what we want to do," said Cook. "It's totally out of our hands."

Whoever ends up in the Australian personnel bidding to wrest back the Ashes, Cook and his fellow tourists know the battle for the urn will be intense.

Alastair Cook

Alastair Cook maintains his focus during fielding practice today. He insists England as a squad are doing the same, regardless of Australian matters

"Australia are a hugely competitive side every time they play - and with England coming in probably the biggest Test series there is, they don't need any more motivation," Cook added.

"They've got a great record here - they are going to be very proud of that - and it's up to us to 'out-compete' them over the next two months."

Clarke's team-mates believe he will still make it, and surely know deep down how much his absence will be felt.

After Australia's practice, Mitchell Johnson said: "I think he batted for about 45 minutes, and he says he's pulled up pretty well from it.

"He's still got another two days to prove himself. But he said he felt pretty good with what he did, so it's good signs for him and Australia.

"Not having Michael in the team would be a big loss, but he's been doing everything he can to get right."

Johnson is confident that Khawaja will be an able deputy, should Clarke miss out.

"I don't think we'll be a lesser side," Johnson said. "Usman has come in and he has had a magnificent year, as he did last season.

"He is not as experienced as Michael. But we make everyone feel comfortable; everyone is worth their spot when they come in.

"Whether or not Michael makes it, there's always someone pushing him to do his best."

Johnson himself, meanwhile, spent the morning visualising bowling at Englishmen.

He said: "Every batter who came in, I was thinking of English batters. So when Shane (Watson) came in I was thinking of a (Kevin) Pietersen-type ... I didn't bounce him!

"I'm thinking about it all the time. I've come off a pretty good couple of weeks and I'm raring to get out there and bowl fast."

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