Aussies sweat on Clarke’s fitness

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Australia’s precarious batting order faces the prospect of an allrounder replacing captain Michael Clarke for the one-day international series decider against Sri Lanka in Hobart.

Clarke is in serious doubt for the Bellerive match, which Australia must win to avoid an embarrassing 3-1 series defeat, after twisting his ankle during a warm-up fielding drill at Tuesday’s training session.

Team officials said he was icing and resting the injury in a bid to be fit for the match.

The loss of Australia’s best batsman would be a massive blow to a side that has passed 250 just once in the four games so far and was bowled out for a meagre 74 in game three at the Gabba.

It would most likely see David Hussey or vice-captain George Bailey moved to No.3 with spinning allrounder Glenn Maxwell promoted.

Maxwell averages 27.40 from his six ODIs while the other member of Australia’s 13-man squad, Ben Cutting, is a pace bowler and lower-order hitter.

Keeper Matt Wade could bat as high as five with allrounders Moises Henriques and Maxwell to follow.

Bailey, who would skipper the side for the first time on his home ground, said Clarke would be given until the last minute to prove his fitness.

“He will obviously be given right up to the toss tomorrow to prove he is right to go,” he told reporters.

“There will be a little bit of pain but, if he is 100 per cent, he will play.”

Australia’s batsmen have made totals of 170, 74 and 9-222 since their opening match 5-305, when Phil Hughes scored 112 and Bailey 89.

The top order has been exposed by the swing of Nuwan Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga with two white balls being used.

“The challenge is make sure we do weather those new balls,” Bailey said.

“If it is swinging and seaming a little bit early and it does happen to be a good batting wicket, then hopefully you make the most of that.

“The challenge is for the top four to make sure we’re doing the bulk of the run-scoring and batting the majority of the time.

“That’s our role, whether it’s your first or hundredth game.”

Bailey said Clarke’s absence would up the challenge for a top order still coming to terms with the losses of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey.

“I think if you are replacing Michael Clarke with anyone, it’s a step down and that is no disrespect to whoever needs to replace him,” Bailey said.

“It is a challenge, which is hopefully what the guys step up into.

“That’s what we are hoping and that is what we have lacked in the last couple of games, is someone stepping up … to fill the gaps with Mike Hussey leaving, Ricky Ponting leaving.”

Australia, who won game one in Melbourne by 107 runs, find themselves in the unfamiliar position of trying to salvage a 2-2 series result.

Bailey said the inexperienced and changing Australian line-up had been dealt a lesson in the rigours of international cricket.

“The change from domestically, where you might play a good side once or twice a year … whereas you’re coming up against world-class players day-in, day-out here,” he said.

“That challenge doesn’t go away, particularly with a team like Sri Lanka which has such a great one-day record.”

Australian squad: Michael Clarke (capt), George Bailey, Ben Cutting, Xavier Doherty, Moises Henriques, Phil Hughes, David Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.

© AAP 2014
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