- Champions Trophy 2013
Clarke ruled out of England match
Australia skipper Michael Clarke has been ruled out of his country's opening Champions Trophy match against England on Saturday - and could be a doubt for the Ashes.
Vice-captain George Bailey will lead the side in his absence, while Clarke's involvement in the rest of the tournament also remains uncertain as he continues to battle a long-standing back problem that kept him from playing either of the two warm-up matches against West Indies and India.
"Michael is making steady progress in his recovery from the recent lower back injury but is yet to return to training," Alex Kountouris, the team physio, said on Friday morning. "He will remain in London over the coming days to continue his rehabilitation and will not be available for the first match against England on Saturday. How he responds to the ongoing treatment will determine his availability for the match against New Zealand next Wednesday."
The situation is also a concern for the Australians a little more than a month from the first Test of the Ashes, for although Clarke has had the back problem since he was a teenager it appears to have affected him more over the past few months than in the past. He missed Australia's most recent Test, the loss to India in Delhi, and it was the first time he has been forced to sit out of a Test due to his back trouble.
On Thursday, Kountouris conceded that the abbreviated nature of the Champions Trophy meant Clarke's participation in any part of it was uncertain and it could also depend on whether the Australians move past the group stage.
"We are just trying to get him right," Kountouris said. "He has had this before so we know how it plays out and we know the treatment that he needs to get him right. But being such a short tournament we're racing against time to get him fit.
"We certainly won't be taking any risks. It is a really important time of the year for us, that goes without saying. This is an important tournament too so we'll get him up for whatever games we can and won't take any stupid risks. Firstly he needs to be pain free, which he's not at the moment.
"Then we need to put him through a series of tests, get him running and batting and get him doing things he'd normally do. We need him training at full intensity before we get him on the park."