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July 7, 2013
Flanked by Australia's physio Alex Kountouris and their doctor Peter Brukner, Michael Clarke walked laps of Trent Bridge while the rest of his team went rather less gingerly through their paces. Officially this is all part of the plan - Clarke also did 20 minutes of shuttle runs and took part in slips practice later - but it provided a reminder that the captain's back requires constant vigilance ahead of the first Test against England.
Ensuring Clarke's readiness for the challenges to be posed by Jimmy Anderson and company is chief among the tourists' concerns in Nottingham. So far he has maintained a steady upward trend in mobility and match form since the tour began at Taunton, culminating in a flashy second innings century at Worcester. Clarke is expected to bat at training on Monday, though his training patterns will likely remain modified for the rest of the series.
Chris Rogers, the opening batsman, said Clarke was on course to be fine for the first day of the Trent Bridge match, but also empathised with his captain's back struggles, which are common among top-order batsmen given their requirement to crouch, twist and sway an enormous amount at the crease if they are to be successful run-scorers.
"I think he's pretty good, I haven't heard anything different, so I expect he'll be ready to go on Wednesday," Rogers said after training. "I don't know whether he's 100% or not, I think he's had to manage it. Bad backs, I've had mine too, it's not the nicest thing, so whether he bowls or not I don't know, but I think he'll be right with his batting and he showed it the other day.
"It's just not ideal, it becomes a bit restrictive and when you're facing the likes of Steve Finn, Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson you're going to be having to move around a fair bit, so hopefully the work he's done means he's ready to go."
Apart from their monitoring of Clarke, the other talking points for Australia on their first visit to the ground were the hard, abrasive and dry nature of the practice wickets and the pitch square, and also the fact that the Dukes ball continued to swing noticeably for the impressively rhythmic Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson despite the lack of any apparent overhead help from a pleasingly cloudless sky.
"It swings here even today," Rogers said. "The sun's out, you expect nice batting conditions when the overheads are good but it swill swung so thats how it's played traditionally, i expect that to be the case. It's hard to know what the wicket is going to do, I think it's going to be pretty good to bat on, but swing is going to be a big threat."
The Test pitch itself was kept under wraps throughout the session, Rogers deducing that the ground staff was eager to retain as much moisture as possible, lest it dry out too early in the prevailing warm weather. "It looked like there were a few cracks in it," he said. "I think they're trying to keep some moisture in it definitely. It's been hot here and I think that's going to dictate how the pitch plays.
"If you look at the wickets next to the pitch they are fairly abrasive already, so everyone realises the ball will scuff up a fair bit. Therefore reverse swing comes into it. Spin is going to have to do a huge role to help out the quicks as well. They have obviously got a trump with Swanny, but Nathan Lyon is bowling pretty well as well. Hopefully we're in a good position."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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Plays of the day from the fourth ODI between Australia and South Africa at the MCG