Stuart Clark's plans for a pre-Ashes stint with Gloucestershire have been dashed after delays in obtaining a UK visa. Clark had hoped to play two four-day matches for Gloucestershire in a bid to boost his fitness ahead of the Ashes, but will now head to Cricket Australia's centre of excellence for extra training sessions.
Clark created a major stir earlier in the summer when he signed a short-term contract with Kent. That deal was scuppered when the fast bowler was called into the Australian squad for the limited-overs series against Pakistan in the UAE, but a subsequent opportunity to play county cricket arose when Gloucestershire's James Franklin was chosen in New Zealand's World Twenty20 squad.
But those plans were also terminated after Clark on Monday informed Gloucestershire of the visa delay. He will now enter the Ashes series having played no first-class cricket since undergoing elbow surgery in December.
"This didn't have anything to do with [the ECB] not wanting me there, it's just that the visa is taking too long," Clark told Cricinfo. "It would have been preferable to play a few county games, so in that sense it's a bit disappointing. But it's not to be, so I'll just head up to the centre of excellence to get a bit more bowling in."
Gloucestershire's chief executive, Tom Richardson, admitted last month that he was risking a club versus country row in trying to bring Clark to Bristol. "You wrestle with your conscience on these things but we want to win things," he told BBC Radio. "Yes we want England to win the Ashes too, but we have to focus on getting a really good cricketer in here. If he didn't come to us he'd go to someone else."
Richardson was less bullish when discussing the Clark situation on Monday. "Fundamentally we have said all along that we would cross that bridge if we came to it, but now we have not come to it, it is all a lot of hot air," he told Cricinfo.
Clark is due to join the Australian squad in England on June 17. The ECB offered no comment on his change of plan.
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo