England v Australia, 5th NatWest ODI, Ageas Bowl September 15, 2013

Clarke doubtful as back problem flares


Michael Clarke's career-long back problem has flared up again towards the final days of Australia's tour of England, leaving in doubtful for the deciding one-day international at the Ageas Bowl, while Shaun Marsh has already been ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Clarke's back forced him to miss the Champions Trophy at the beginning of Australia's summer-long stay in England and although he played throughout the Ashes there was often talk that it was causing more worries than were made public

He will be given every chance to prove his fitness for the final ODI, but coach Darren Lehmann has said there is too much at stake in the future for him to be risked if there are any doubts. It also raises the question as to whether Clarke will be part of the one-day tour to India in October, which comes little more than a month before the return Ashes begins.

"It's a big game but if he's not right, we won't risk him," Lehmann told AAP. "It's an important series but we've got another one-day series and an Ashes series coming up."

Clarke scored a superb hundred at Old Trafford to set up Australia's victory - the ground where he also made a century during the Ashes - but did not appear completely at ease in the middle during his 22 in Cardiff on Saturday. He was discomforted by the bounce of Boyd Rankin before falling, slightly unluckily, lbw to Steven Finn.

Australia could, therefore, be fielding a very different top order in a match that Lehmann has termed a "grand final", as they aim to finish a difficult tour with some silverware. Marsh, who has made 0 and 25 in his two innings for the series, picked up a hamstring strain in the fourth match - the latest occasion his career has been interrupted by injury - which is likely to offer a last-ditch opportunity to Phillip Hughes, who has been on the sidelines since he was dropped after the second Test at Lord's.

"We'll look at the pitch but I think that's the probably the way we'd go," Lehmann said. "It gives him an opportunity. He's playing really well and working on his game and that's all we can ask. He's ready to go. Hopefully he gets his chance and away he goes."

Australia were well placed to seal the series with a match to spare when Clint McKay took a hat-trick in Cardiff to leave England 8 for 3, and they later reduced the home side to 144 for 6 but were beaten by Jos Buttler's calculated late assault.

"It gets down to a grand final set-up now, which is great," Lehmann said. "That's what we want the players put under most of the time, although you would have loved to close out the series.

"We're certainly playing the right brand of cricket, we just made a couple of elementary mistakes. Apart from that, we've pretty much played how we want to play. Now the case is we want to finish on a high and get moving on."

McKay, who removed Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Joe Root to complete a star-studded hat-trick, admitted it was a tough defeat to take after having had England on the ropes. ''The boys are a bit flat,'' he said. ''We had a massive opportunity to take this series home and unfortunately we couldn't deliver. But we'll bounce back and fight hard again on Monday.''

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Russell on September 16, 2013, 10:48 GMT

    @Mitty2 - So with Australia's "tactically superior captain" "excellent seam attack" and England's top order (with the exception of Bell) misfiring they lost 3-0.

    It'll be interesting to see what happens when Harris breaks down (like every other Aussie seamer does) and England's top order finds their form.

    Let's see how the "tactically superior" captain copes with being humiliated in his own back yard.

    Prediction for the Winter series 4-0 England

    By the way... You didn't win a test this time. Maybe we should only play three tests against weak opposition like Australia

  • disco on September 16, 2013, 9:15 GMT

    "grand final" is a bit twee and not a little risible considering that epithet was used much more appropriately for the deciding Test against South Africa, which sadly did not live up to it's billing.

  • David on September 16, 2013, 8:07 GMT

    Disappointing for Shaun Marsh, but not surprising. This is at least the third hamstring injury he has suffered at international level, not to mention various other ailments. Going on past experience, once he is fit the selectors will rush him back in, but I really wish they would leave him to play a full season or more of Shield cricket. If, after that, he manages to both make some decent runs and stay fit, then maybe play him again. Meanwhile, Phil Hughes seems set to finally get a chance. Had he been selected against Scotland, as he should have been both on form and in terms on continuity, he may have made the big hundred that Marsh did and sewn up his spot for a few games at least. Now he has one chance at the fag end of the tour. Not sure what they guy has to do to get a decent run in the side.

  • Brenton on September 16, 2013, 1:50 GMT

    Maybe this means Phil Hughes will get a game opening. He averages 42 in ODI, 2 centuries and an 86 in 10 games, averaged 80 in Ryobi cup last season. I'm not sure what he has to do to get a game.

  • Brady on September 16, 2013, 0:39 GMT

    Probably a good idea to rest Clarke, afterall he can't take guard much more outside leg stump without being able to reach a ball on off. Clarke is a very good ODI player but there are plenty there to take his place in India (i.e. Ferguson, Warner, White, etc.). Bailey can captain.

  • John on September 15, 2013, 23:31 GMT

    Michael Clarke looked to be in so much difficulty on Saturday that it comes as no surprise to hear that his back is bothering him. He was flailing away without moving his feet and having a lot of trouble with the lifting ball from Rankin.

    I always enjoy watching Clarke, but this match is a long way from the most important he will be playing in the next few months. Don't risk him if it might do long-term damage.

    Hughes is a decent replacement for Marsh, but Maxwell for Clarke is a definite downgrade. At least in Bailey Aus has a very capable vice-captain. As for the rest, Fawad really should be in the side. Some of England's batsmen, most notably Buttler, look very much more comfortable against pace than against spin.

  • Hamish on September 15, 2013, 21:03 GMT

    Lol @FFL and ifs. 'If' Ian Bell didnt play these ashes Eng would have lost 3-1. If ryan harris didn't play aus would've lost 4-0. But, if clarke didn't play, considering the fact that his only good score was in a game we dominared, the scoreline would've probably stayed the same. However, that's probably not right, because as is a unanimous fact, Michael Clarke is a far superior captain to Cook, and his superior tactics often earnt us the wickets of Trott, Cook, Prior and Root. Not oce did i see Cook set fields to exploit a batsmen's weakness. It was truly hilarious to see against NZ where 10 men were om the fence agaisnt mcullum... But to do it in the ashes... Wow.

  • Dummy4 on September 15, 2013, 19:11 GMT

    This is a big worry for Australia. Based on their somewhat disappointing depth in bowling in the last Ashes, Ryan Harris absolutely must stay fit for them to have hope of regaining the urn.

  • Tanmay on September 15, 2013, 18:44 GMT

    Clarke needs to retire from ODIs...its pathetic to see him lose out on international matches regularly because of his weak back....let him play tests & retire from ODIs

  • Satish on September 15, 2013, 17:48 GMT

    Yep its time to get Ferguson back in the team,Burns needs to debut and Tim Paine could bat anywhere from 1 to 7.Chad Sayers is another guy who can be consider.And Warner will eventually be back any how.

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