The Ashes 2009 May 22, 2009

Clark reignites county row


Stuart Clark is again set to raise the hackles of England's players and officials with confirmation he has agreed terms with Gloucestershire for a two-match stint ahead of the Ashes. The Australian fast bowler prompted a furore in March when he signed with Kent - an arrangement that was eventually scuppered with his call-up to the Australian one-day squad - and is now awaiting a UK visa before taking his place at the County Ground, Bristol.

"All the paperwork went to the consulate today, so hopefully it all goes through pretty quickly," Clark told Cricinfo. "(Gloucestershire) want me to go and I want to be there, so it's just a question of getting the visa through."

A Gloucestershire spokesperson would not confirm on Friday whether an agreement had been struck with Clark, but said negotiations with the Australian paceman had been taking place. Tom Richardson, the Gloucestershire chief executive, has publicly spoken of his desire to replace fast bowler James Franklin while he is on World Twenty20 duty with New Zealand, and recently told BBC Radio Bristol: "Stuart's someone that, were he to be available, we'd be very keen to get him to come and play."

Clark is in search of match practice ahead of the Ashes, following an extended stint on the sidelines due to right elbow surgery. The right-armer has turned out for his grade side, Sydney University, and played in three ODIs for Australia against Pakistan in the UAE since the operation to remove bone spurs in his bowling elbow, but has had no exposure to first-class cricket.

Clark's omission from Australia's 15-man World Twenty20 squad created a window for a county stint, and John Bracewell's Gloucestershire side is ready to accommodate. Should all go to plan, Clark will play in Gloucestershire's four-day matches against Derbyshire (starting June 6) and his former club Middlesex (from June 18), before joining the Australian camp.

"I feel good after the UAE trip and am looking forward to a bit more cricket before the tour games before the Ashes," he said. "I probably could have done with a bit more bowling in the UAE, but I came out of that series feeling pretty good about where I was. I was pretty happy with the way I bowled in the games, and I got a lot of work done in the nets."

Clark's proposed move to Kent prompted anger from many leading figures within England cricket, who argued counties should not provide support to Australian players in an Ashes year. Andrew Strauss, the England captain, accused Kent of "short sightedness", while national selector Geoff Miller described the move as "disappointing".

Asked whether he was expecting another backlash, Clark was succinct: "I am, actually, but I couldn't care less."

Clark is acutely aware of the importance of a thorough Ashes preparation. During his injury-enforced absence, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus excelled in Test matches against South Africa, creating a log-jam of contenders for fast bowling spots ahead of the first Test in Cardiff.

"I think Punter (Ricky Ponting) will be in for a hard time in the nets - he'll be getting it from all of us trying to outdo each other to claim the places that are up for grabs," he said. "I think that will be healthy competition, not you-versus-me stuff, and will bring out the very best in all of us. Mitchell (Johnson) deserves to keep his place after all he's done in the last year, and then it's up to the rest of us to get the other spots."

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Chris on May 25, 2009, 10:15 GMT

    To say that Clark's proposed move to Kent prompted anger from many leading figures within England cricket is just sensationalist journalism. Nobody got "angry".

  • Am I on May 23, 2009, 16:32 GMT

    Unfortunately my husband, Somewhat; was a bit tippsy when he posted his comments earlier. His grammar does slide when he consumes the bath water. We all know that Australia actually has WON the last 3 WORLD CUPS in the 50 over format. So to suggest that we NEED to challenge ourselves in world cup matches was a bit of a stinker, wasn't it. Seeing that the Ashes has been going around for over 100 years it is understandably obtuse of my husband to suggest that 'we Aussies' shouldn't talk about that ONE rival series. We all know that the other test playing nations are envious of our deep history and proud heritage. The hit & giggle format of Twenty20 is in no way a test of character or should be put in the same league as TEST Cricket. Sure, it is entertaining but guys with no staying power, grit and determination can now eek out a career by bashing and crashing the ball all over the park and some of these 'entertainers' wouldn't even get a look in at their local club in the 4 day format.

  • ilias on May 23, 2009, 12:22 GMT

    This is typical of the myopic English. Strauss should be focusing on his own team's preparation rather than individual Aussies.

    And pray what are the English going to do in a world cup year if the tournament is to be held in England, stop any international team from touring England for that year?

  • Devarshi on May 23, 2009, 10:41 GMT

    Stuey is good enough to bowl the Aussies to victory even without the county stint. England is super pathetic in T20 and ODIs. Remember the humiliation they had last year in INDIA. So they aren't talking about the world cup. Even in Tests they are marginally better than WI. Yet they have the guts to talk about a rivalry that doesn't exist. IND-AUS, AUS-SA is better anyday . People and ICC dont consider ENG a 'top' cricketing nation anyway.

  • Stephen on May 23, 2009, 9:19 GMT

    A test match is just that - a test of two sides ideally playing at the peak of their form. Until recently, England afforded tourists the courtesy of a run of preparatory matches to find their form and assimilate the conditions. The 1930 Australians played their first match on 30 April, and had twelve first-class games before the first test on 13 June ; Ian Chappell's 1972 team had eleven first-class games, and even the 1993 side (Warne's first tour) played 5 first-class games and another seven one-dayers up to the first test. The greatest sadness is not that we have such small-minded people in the England set-up (there have always been a few) but that today's ludicrous schedule should deny a player of Phillip Hughes's outstanding promise a stab at that most rare of talismans, a thousand runs by the end of May.

  • Vinay on May 23, 2009, 5:37 GMT

    All hail the crows!!!!! So how are the crows in England ?

  • John on May 23, 2009, 0:03 GMT

    Who cares if a county side plays an Aussie? Do all the matches they played here in non-Ashes years not count as experiencing local conditions, or is it only Ashes years that matter?

  • Andy on May 22, 2009, 21:06 GMT

    What's the problem? I'd rather watch a match between players who are in form and properly prepared.

  • D. on May 22, 2009, 18:06 GMT

    How very hypocritical are the English?? Didn't Strauss play for some domestic NZ team prior to the test series against NZ in NZ 2007. And didn't Anderson do the same ? Worse the NZ county side bowled Anderson to form, and promptly he won the second test for England.

    Different rules for different folks eh !

  • Chris on May 22, 2009, 17:21 GMT

    Is Strauss having a laugh? Hyprocrite Has he forgotten that his Middlesex team had Hughes for 6 weeks?

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