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September 3, 2009
Michael Clarke has endured a frustrating week as Australia's stand-in captain - a facile victory over Scotland and two washed-out Twenty20 games at Old Trafford are all that he has to show for his stint at the helm during Ricky Ponting's brief absence. On the eve of the first ODI against England at The Oval, he expressed further dissatisfaction, both for this match and last month's Ashes decider, after Surrey chose to book out their indoor nets facility to a corporate hospitality function.
Clarke was Australia's outstanding batsman of the Ashes, top-scoring with 448 runs including centuries at Lord's and Edgbaston. But in the final Test at The Oval, he was a notable failure with scores of 3 and 0, the latter dismissal a careless run-out when a clip off the pads ricocheted into the hands of Andrew Strauss at leg slip. Despite that, however, Clarke claimed that the reason for his lack of runs in that match was due to his inability to work on his game in the indoor nets
"It's certainly not [ideal], and I can guarantee you personally I'm very disappointed with that," said Clarke. "I think the indoor facilities around England have played a big part throughout the Test series and will continue to, with the way the weather's been, throughout the one-dayers.
"It is a little bit disappointing that other priorities have taken place in the indoor facilities here at The Oval. I used the bowling machine in the indoor nets as part of my preparation throughout the whole Test series, and I guess it's no coincidence why I didn't make any runs here. It was a bit of my preparation that I unfortunately didn't get a chance to do."
The nets facility has instead been booked out to Keith Prowse Ltd, a London-based corporate entertainment company.
Given the impact that the weather has already had on the limited-overs leg of Australia's tour, Clarke's criticism was not aimed solely at The Oval. Reflecting on the abandonment of the Old Trafford matches, he reiterated his belief that the umpires had taken the correct decision to pull the plug on the second contest, but blamed the ECB for not ensuring adequate covers to defend against the downpours.
"The one thing I will add is weather seems to be the biggest concern over here in England, whether it's overs being lost or games being cancelled," he said. "Maybe the covering system is something the counties can look at. For me the wicket is first and foremost, the priority is to keep that dry, and not wet, but second to that are the bowlers' run-ups. Both ends of the bowlers' run-ups the other night were just not up to scratch and that's the main reason I believe the umpires did not rule the ground fit."
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