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Clarke skips practice, should be fit for 2nd test

December 3, 2013

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — Australia has had an injury setback two days before the second Ashes test, with skipper Michael Clarke missing a practice session because of an injured ankle.

Clarke, who scored a century in the second innings of Australia’s 381-run victory in the series opener against England in Brisbane last week, turned awkwardly on his right ankle during fielding drills on Monday and skipped the team practice on Tuesday.

Cricket Australia said Clarke’s ankle “is a bit stiff and sore but he’ll be OK” to play his 99th test match, which starts Thursday at the Adelaide Oval. Team management said Clarke would train on Wednesday.

Clarke has a history of back problems and missed Australia’s recent limited-overs tour to India so he could focus on rehabilitation between the Ashes series loss in England in August and the return five-match series.

The 32-year-old Clarke has had a rough time since ending Australia’s winless drought in the first test, with the injury coming on top of a fine and sanction from the International Cricket Council because an obscene word he used while taunting England tailender Jimmy Anderson was heard on the TV broadcast during the tense final minutes of the match.

Australian allrounder Shane Watson said Clarke’s absence from training was precautionary.

“Obviously Michael batted beautifully in the first test, so his preparation was always going to be very good anyway,” Watson told reporters. “I know the medical staff and Michael are very confident. It was just giving him a break today and he’ll be training flat-out tomorrow, ready to go for Thursday.”

The Australians may need Clarke to bowl some spin in support of Nathan Lyon at Adelaide, where the drop-in pitch doesn’t offer a lot of bounce for the fast bowlers and tends to play true for the batsmen.

Watson had a hamstring injury going into the first test in Brisbane and only needed to bowl two overs as the pacemen skittled England for 136 and 179.

He has volunteered to take up more of the bowling slack in Adelaide to lessen the load on the quicks, particularly as there’s only a three-day break between the second test and the third test at Perth’s notoriously bouncy WACA ground.

“The wicket is going to be flat (in Adelaide), the bowlers are potentially going to have to bowl many more overs compared with Brisbane to be able to bowl the English out,” Watson said. In Perth, “we certainly know we have got the bowlers to be able to really exploit that Perth wicket as well.

“The bowlers certainly looked after me physically in the first test ... but I know this is my turn to put my hand up and bowl the overs to look after those guys.”

Australia lost 3-0 in England and was in turmoil after Mickey Arthur was fired just weeks before the Ashes series started and opener David Warner was suspended after a night-club incident involving England batsman Joe Root.

The win in Brisbane was Australia’s first in 10 tests, and Lehmann’s first in six tests as coach. But England has won the last three Ashes series and is in Australia aiming to win the urn in four straight series for the first time since the 1800s.

The loss in Brisbane was England’s first defeat in a year, since the comeback series win in India.

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