Australia v Sri Lanka, 5th ODI, Hobart January 22, 2013

Clarke sprains ankle at training

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Australia's bid to salvage a 2-2 series draw against Sri Lanka is likely to be made without the captain Michael Clarke, who is an unlikely starter for Wednesday's fifth ODI in Hobart after suffering a sprained ankle in a training mishap. Clarke rolled his ankle as the team prepared for the final match of a series they can only level at 2-2 following Sunday's wash-out in Sydney, and was due to have the injury assessed during Tuesday afternoon.

But he is extremely doubtful to recover in time, leaving George Bailey likely to lead the team at Bellerive Oval. Bailey stood in at the pre-match captain's press conference and said Clarke would be given until the last minute on Wednesday to prove his fitness.

"He's heading off for a scan now," Bailey told reporters in Hobart. "Hopefully it's all clear. He'll be given right up until the toss tomorrow to prove that he's right to go. Hopefully that scan is clear. There will obviously be a little bit of pain but if he's 100% he'll play."

If Clarke is sidelined it will weaken Australia's batting line-up significantly. Unless the selectors call in another batsman as cover, Glenn Maxwell and Moises Henriques would likely both play as batting allrounders at Nos. 6 and 7.

"I think if you're replacing Michael Clarke with anyone it's a step down, and that's no disrespect to whoever needs to replace him, but he's an outstanding player," Bailey said. "Whenever you're losing the experience and calibre of player it's a challenge, which hopefully guys step up into. That's what we're hoping.

"That's what we've lacked in the last couple of games, is someone stepping up as an individual or even in a batting partnership to fill the gaps that Michael Hussey leaving and Ricky Ponting leaving has created. With that comes huge opportunity.

"That's the word we keep using and that's still there. If individuals within the group can stand up, particularly at the top of the order, and settle the change rooms down, get a good partnership going, then we saw in Melbourne how well the guys can bat."

Bailey acknowledged that Australia's batsmen had struggled to deal with a trio of matches where the ball has seamed and swung, having particular trouble with the inswingers of Nuwan Kulasekara.

"He has been very accurate and swung the ball nicely," Bailey said. "There is an art to that itself, when the ball is swinging to still have the control to land it where you want and there is no doubt he is bowling well and putting the ball almost exactly where he wants it more times than not."

"The challenge for us is to combat that ... whether that is doing something different as a batsman, being a little sharper with your feet, putting him off his game, whatever it might be, hoping he has a bit more of an off day. There is no doubt he is at the top of his game at the moment.

"I think it's a challenge. Facing good spin is a challenge. That's cricket. In a nutshell, the swinging ball is always what bowlers try and produce because it's the hardest ball to play as a batsman. That's always going to be the type of bowling that will challenge batters."

Daniel Brettig and Brydon Coverdale are assistant editors at ESPNcricinfo.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Paul_Rampley on January 23, 2013, 3:52 GMT

    @Lord.emsworth your colleagues are correct, Khawaja is one of the better young players coming through and might do a bit of damage in the ashes against your boys

  • sugwas on January 23, 2013, 2:50 GMT

    Fingers crossed he makes it to the toss - alternatively the Australians will have to call on that massive strenght in depth I hear so much about. Brad Hodge anyone?

  • KingMSC on January 23, 2013, 2:40 GMT

    Why are these Aussies keep over looking Khawaja? Since the batting lineup is struggling Australia need someone who can play a big inning. Khawaja has had a wonderful Shield yet he is not given a chance. 1 game is all he gets.

  • skkh on January 23, 2013, 2:29 GMT

    Aussie selectors seem to have bloated egos and they probably will play with only 4 batsmen and play Maxwell in place of Clarke. The yardstick for Hughes was totally biased. Not denying his long term prospect he ought to have been brought in against SA and not the SriLankans. He should be persisted and would certainly be a good prospect. However Khawaja has been victimised for what reason is beyond reason. Like Hughes, Khawaja is a long term prospect and needs to be tried and persisted with as do the Marsh brothers. Instead of trying these the selectors are handing out chances to the likes of Quiney, Forrest etc. We lost the WACA test because of the selectors. Imagine Hastings get a chance at WACA!!! How come the ECB is not facing the frequent breakdowns that we have? The fitness programme is at fault as are the Physios.Why does England not need to rotate as we do? Are our fast bowlers "fragile"? Our batsmen cannot play swing and spin. What is our batting coach doing?

  • Gemmm on January 23, 2013, 2:12 GMT

    Is Clarke avoiding another in swinger from Kulasekera?

  • amilao on January 23, 2013, 1:35 GMT

    today's match very important to both sides because no one beat australia 2 consecetively 2 times in their home ground.. that record seems to be establish in last match when SL was 14/0 in 3.2 overs.but some kind of amazing decisions of umpires & match refree save australians.i wish today not only win SL but also i wish to not to appear clouds in the sky.because that reason can also a chance to stop the match.congragulations SL

  • Clara74 on January 23, 2013, 1:09 GMT

    I was reading some of the comments and I understand where we stand on test cricket and onday cricket currently. As a SL fan I am proud of their game no matter if they win or loose they are the best cricketers in the world because they play with minimum facilities compare to most cricket playing countries. common guys just think about the population how possibly you will expect the number of cricketers that AUS or Engalnd producing from SL. So my point is even if you have thousand of cricket players SL are playing with very few number of international players and still they can beat most of these countries with lots of facilities. Just think how you can compare these. All I have to say you better be sad hen you loose a game to SL instead of trying find excuses or just be happy looking how SL playing.

  • PrasPunter on January 22, 2013, 20:53 GMT

    @Ragav999, absolutely - no doubt about it - our batsmen needs to be more consistent and perform on all kind of decks - no question about that all - the one that irked me is the constant bombardment of the team and the selectors. The media back home is as scathing as it can get - no problem with them doing it if this were Ashes or a test-series. All along, I have always seen that the team that wins a test-series just loses steam in the limited-overs editions that follow. Not just us, but Eng lost 1-6 on two occasions after winning the Ashes - not a single soul cried for that. Why blast the team for something irrevelant .. Agreed that they are paid for that. And this is where the rotation policy does more than good. Use these ones to try out potential batsmen and don't look for results. Enough said.

  • ShehanJ on January 22, 2013, 20:49 GMT

    Oh God, some SL fans are even already talking about winning the 2015 World Cup. (All it took was 2 victories against Aus to rouse up the SL keyboard warriors). How much can change in 2 years, not forgetting the fact that Mahela, Kumar and Dilshan are adamant on playing one more WC when all three will be close to 40. All this, "We are lions" talk in a country that does not have any lions is also quite funny. SL team messed up the best chance they ever had of winning a WC when they were humiliated my West Indies in the T20 WC Finals held last year. Some advice to blindly patriotic SL fans is, "Don't count your chickens before they are hatched!"

  • dummy4fb on January 22, 2013, 20:35 GMT

    Oh please ..... what a coincidence!!! It appears that Clarke does not want to Captain a losing team.