SEAMER Stuart Clark looks poised to play his first Test on home soil after edging ahead in the race to fill the final place in Australia's opening Ashes Test line-up.
The former Middlesex seamer is favourite to be given the nod to take his place in Australia's attack alongside Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Shane Warne for the highly-anticipated start to the Ashes series tomorrow.
Brisbane boy Clark, whose four previous Test appearances have been overseas, had been involved in a three-way battle for the final spot with Shaun Tait and uncapped left-arm seamer Mitchell Johnson at the start of the week.
But the withdrawal of all-rounder Shane Watson and the extra bowling options he provided persuaded Australia to release Tait, who has a raw but un- predictable pace, and look at more steady performers.
It leaves Australia with a straight choice between the unproven Johnson or Clark, who claimed 20 wickets in the three-Test series in South Africa earlier this year.
"They've both got very strong cases," conceded Australian captain Ricky Ponting. "Stuart got the man of the series award in his only Test series he's played in South Africa.