Sport Cricket Michael Clarke on track for World Cup
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Michael Clarke on track for World Cup

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Michael Clarke might be downplaying the progress he has made on his mission to be fit for the Cricket World Cup, but the evidence was there for all to see in Brisbane on Thursday.

The Australian captain batted well, took a difficult catch and even threw down two overs of his left-arm tweakers to show his troublesome hamstring is holding up just fine in a practice match against Bangladesh at Allan Border Field.

Playing for a Cricket Australia XI, Clarke hit a solid and expansive 34 – perhaps a low score on paper, but in the context of his recovery from surgery and in light of his February 21 fitness deadline, it was significant.

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Bumped up the order to opener after Bangladesh were bowled out for 193, he smacked six fours, scored at almost a run a ball and appeared unrestricted by his hamstring or his dodgy back while at the crease.

Clarke will head to Adelaide on Friday to link up with the rest of the Australian squad, and is expected to face the United Arab Emirates in the team’s final warm-up game before the tournament proper kicks off against England on February 14.

Barring disaster on the way, it appears his place in the team is assured – even if he was reluctant to admit as much.

“In my opinion, there’s still a gap between where I am now and playing a one-day international for Australia,” Clarke said.

“But the fortunate thing is I’ve got plenty of time to close that gap.

“I’m trying to get fit and healthy as soon as possible, and then the experts will make those decisions.”

The 33-year-old’s captaincy no longer appears to be in question either, following a very public backing from Darren Lehmann on Wednesday.

Clarke – not deputy George Bailey or Steve Smith – is down to front an official captain’s press conference on Friday in Adelaide.

Lehmann suggested earlier this week that Clarke is so far ahead of schedule that he could make an appearance in the World Cup opener.

It still may not happen, but after Clarke’s day out on Thursday, and his surprise deployment in the bowling attack, it no longer sounds crazy.

Clarke has been told by selectors he must be fit enough to bowl spin at the World Cup, and while his spell of 0-6 didn’t set the world on fire, it was something of a statement.

“I’ve been bowling for the last three weeks in the nets, so the skipper (Ashton Turner) needed a couple of overs so he asked if I was happy to bowl,” he said.

“I was certainly happy to bowl a couple of overs there.

“The ideal was to field for at least half the game – and I think I fielded for 32 overs, which was nice – and then to have a bat as well.

“I would have liked a few more runs but it’s been nice.

“I’ve just got a bit more treatment now but I’ve pulled up pretty well.”

The Cricket Australia XI surpassed Bangladesh’s total with six wickets to spare, powered by Turner, who took 4-30 and then clubbed an unbeaten 71.

– AAP

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