Chappell-Hadlee Series 2008-09 February 11, 2009

Clarke in doubt for series decider

Michael Clarke, who made 98 at the MCG and 64 in Sydney, would be a big loss for the deciding match at the Gabba © Getty Images

Michael Clarke's availability for the Chappell-Hadlee series decider is in doubt, with the vice-captain suffering from upper-back pain. Clarke played through significant discomfort in Tuesday's one-day match against New Zealand, during which he claimed the vital wicket of Brendon McCullum and contributed 14 top-order runs, but pulled up sore the following morning.

The injury is not expected to effect Clarke's availability for the tour of South Africa, but could prevent him from taking the field for Friday night's match against the New Zealanders at the Gabba. Clarke has a long history of lower-back problems, although the team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said the current complaint was unrelated.

"It will all depend how he pulls up before the game," Kountouris said. "He was quite sore going into the game in Adelaide but was determined to get through it, and there is a fair bit of pain today. We'll see how it goes, but with it being such an important match, I'm sure he'll want to play it if possible."

A top order without Clarke would help New Zealand's cause as they embark on the decider aiming for their first one-day series win in Australia. The captain Daniel Vettori said his men remained confident despite allowing Australia to level the series having been down 0-2.

"I don't think anyone would have guessed 2-2 before we started, so this is an exciting time for a very young team," Vettori told NZPA. "To come to Australia and have a chance of winning the series is something you should always dream about and now we've got that opportunity. It's up to mainly the senior guys to step up and lift their performance.

"Hopefully that'll lift the confidence of the group as opposed to the last two performances. We can look back on Perth and Melbourne and see the things we did really well and hopefully put them in place for Brisbane. If we don't then we know we'll get rolled over."

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo