National selectors will assess Michael Clarke on Thursday before considering the merits of a shock recall for the World Cup opener.
Clarke on Wednesday provided the biggest indication yet he will take part in the one-day tournament – by top-scoring with 64 in the MCG warm-up game against the United Arab Emirates.
Clarke, captaining Australia for the first time since undergoing hamstring surgery almost two months ago, had 92 minutes in the middle as the hosts posted a total of 8-304.
The skipper bowled two overs as UAE were skittled for 116 in a tick over two hours, with Shane Watson and Glenn Maxwell snaffling some great catches.
Clarke then completed some fielding drills after the match.
Selectors are expected to keep Clarke on limited duties until Australia face Bangladesh on February 21.
But coach Darren Lehmann was tightlipped when asked if Clarke was any chance of tackling England in Melbourne on Saturday.
“We’ll sum it up tomorrow, see how he pulls up more than anything,” Lehmann told Fox Sports.
“Probably the fielding is going to be the big thing.
“He’s been batting really well for the last couple of weeks, so no dramas there.
“We’ll see how he goes in the field, but really pleased with that start and he’s been really confident.”
Chief selector Rod Marsh nominated Saturday week as Clarke’s final fitness deadline, with the veteran to be dropped from the squad if he is not up to scratch then.
Clarke was initially given little hope of making the deadline, but has exceeded expectations in his recovery.
“It’s a practice match and Michael might be able to walk out there and have a hit, and just hit boundaries and not worry about running between wickets,” Marsh said on January 11, when discussing Clarke’s prospects of taking on the UAE a month later.
Clarke did much more than that.
“He played really well,” Lehmann said.
The 33-year-old, promoted to opener in an effort to ensure he had a decent knock, offered a sharp chance on two after winning the toss.
He steadied and kept the scoreboard ticking over in a 123-run partnership with Aaron Finch.
Lehmann and fellow selectors would have had limited interest in Clarke’s eight boundaries, more so his running between the wickets.
There was no dazzling pace or particularly sharp turns, while the right-hander looked to be running within himself at times.
But Clarke managed an all-run four and followed it up with a quick single, suggesting he is shaping up well for the World Cup.
Half-centurions Clarke, Finch and Steve Smith all fell to offspinner Nasir Aziz.
Mitchell Starc and David Warner were rested, while Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Xavier Doherty snared two wickets each.