Aching Clarke secures draw for NSW
New South Wales 263 & 6 for 254 (Haddin 61*) drew with Victoria 378 and 8 for 275 (McDonald 107*)
Michael Clarke delayed his entry to No.8 due to a painful back injury but he and Brad Haddin were able to save a limping New South Wales from a home defeat to Victoria. Clarke didn't intend on batting unless the Blues were closing on victory, but at 6 for 162 he took a risk and didn't come back until reaching the safety of stumps almost two hours later.
Clarke scored 113 in the first innings but felt discomfort during the display and didn't field for two sessions on Friday, mostly as a precaution ahead of the first Ashes Test on November 25. However, the injury seemed to get worse during his unbeaten 39, forcing him to crouch down and stretch in an effort to ease the pain.
He has suffered regular disc problems throughout his career but this episode is particularly untimely with such an important series less than two weeks away. The injury also causes further issues for Australia's selectors, as Clarke was the only member of the Test side's top six with serious runs this week.
New South Wales captain Stuart Clark suggested that, despite his obvious discomfort, Clarke's injury was not as bad as it may have appeared. "His back's nowhere near as bad as people probably want to think," said Clark. "He's probably sore from batting in the first innings. He batted for a long period after not getting many in India or batting that long.
"It's just stiffness from batting and being hunched over for long periods of time. He was always going to bat. It was just a matter of if we were two or three down it wouldn't have been required. It got to the stage where he needed to bat so he went out there and did it. The physio will assess Michael over the next couple of days but at this stage I will assume he is playing [against Tasmania next week]."
Haddin also spent some decent time in the middle to end up with 61 under tricky conditions, with the hosts finishing on 6 for 254. The pair was needed to salvage the situation after the big-name batting line-up failed to excel for the second time in the game.
The chase of an unlikely 391 for victory was setback early when Shane Watson was lbw to John Hastings for 15. Usman Khawaja, who was caught behind off Peter Siddle on 42, Phillip Hughes (39) and Steven Smith (12) also gave up their final opportunities for big scores before Monday's announcement of the Test squad.
New South Wales' situation became a major worry when Phil Jaques went for 31 and Nathan Hauritz was bowled by Siddle without scoring. Siddle's 2 for 42 off 20 overs was a useful display but he has not gained the major haul needed to tell the selectors he is in top form after a back stress fracture. Jon Holland collected two wickets to have five for the game while Hastings and Andrew McDonald gained one each.
Victoria added 33 runs in less than half an hour in the morning, with McDonald finishing on 107 and Clint McKay rushing to 32. McKay was stumped off Hauritz, giving him an encouraging 3 for 67 off 24 overs ahead of the England series.