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Australia captain Michael Clarke won’t play World Cup opener

February 12, 2015

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Michael Clarke has been ruled out of Australia’s Cricket World Cup opener against England on Saturday.

Australia coach Darren Lehmann confirmed Thursday that Clarke would not play the highly-anticipated game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, despite impressing on Wednesday, when he showed good movement, top-scored with 64 and bowled two overs in a warm-up match against the United Arab Emirates.

Lehmann said Clarke remains on track to return for Australia’s second game, against Bangladesh in Brisbane on Feb. 21. Team medical staff had long earmarked the Brisbane match for Clarke’s return, but speculation had been intensifying that the Australian captain would be ready in time for the tournament opener.

“He’s pulled up really well ... we’re really happy with his progress,” Lehmann said. “We’re going to stick with the plan and he’s going to play against Bangladesh.”

“We had a chat, we’re making sure he’s 100 percent ready to go. We’re really comfortable with the decision.”

Clarke, 33, had surgery on his right hamstring after being forced out of the India test series following the first match. He has had back and hamstring issues for much of his career.

England captain Eoin Morgan said Clarke’s absence would make little difference to the size of the challenge in taking on the co-hosts.

“Whatever team they put out doesn’t really bother us. It’s really important we focus on what we do,” Morgan said. “He hasn’t been part of the tri-series.”

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