Brisbane: Just a fortnight left to prove his fitness, Michael Clarke appeared to be heading in the right direction as the Australian captain yesterday bowled, fielded and batted without any signs of discomfort against Bangladesh in a practice match here.
Michael Clarke in Brisbane yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
Clarke, appearing for Cricket Australia Invitational XI bowled two overs of left-arm spin after the visitors batted first at the Allan Border Field and fielded in the slips most of the time. Clarke, who is recovering from a hamstring injury, also took a sharp catch off Ashton Turner to underline his sure hands in that position. In all, he fielded for 32 of the allotted 50 overs.
Clarke, who has been told by selectors to be fit in time for Australia's second World Cup match against Bangladesh on February 21, then came out to bat as an opener when it was CA XI's turn to chase a modest target of 194. With coach Darren Lehmann watching him, Clarke managed to score 34 off 36 balls in a 47-minute innings. He punched six boundaries, before a leg-break from Sabbir Rahman took a thin outside edge.
Clarke though avoided running at top pace during the pre-World Cup practice fixture as he was able to do most of his work by jogging in the field or between the wickets. However his willingness to bowl may be seen as significant by selector Rodney Marsh, Lehmann and others. Clarke later said he was satisfied with his progress,
though admitted he was still some way away from reaching the fitness level required for an intense World Cup match.
"I've been bowling for the last three weeks in the nets, so the skipper needed a couple of overs so he asked if I was happy to bowl and I was certainly happy to," Clarke said. "In my opinion I think there's probably still a gap between where I am now and playing an ODI for Australia, but fortunate thing is I have plenty of time to close that gap."
Clarke will be in Adelaide tomorrow as the Australian squad will assemble there and will continue to train though he will not play in the warm-up fixture against India on Sunday. He has a greater chance of appearing in the next practice fixture against the UAE at the MCG next week. Clarke scored a half-century for Western Suburbs in a Sydney grade cricket match last week in his first competitive match after undergoing surgery in December last year.