AUSTRALIA captain Michael Clarke has suffered a recurrence of his chronic back problem and is doubtful for today’s NatWest Series decider against England at the Ageas Bowl.
The tourists already know they will have to make one enforced change and it seems likely they will recall opener Phil Hughes in place of Shaun Marsh – who is ruled out after hurting his hamstring in Saturday’s fourth match of five in Cardiff.
After England levelled the series at 1-1 there, Clarke is still hoping to play but will be allowed to do so only if he is thought fully fit. Coach Darren Lehmann spelled that out as he assessed Australia’s selection options.
“It’s a big game. But if he’s not right, we won’t risk him,” Lehmann said of Clarke.
“It’s an important series, but we’ve got another one-day series [against India] and an Ashesseries coming up.”
As for Hughes, who last played for Australia in the second Test at Lord’s, the coach added: “We’ll look at the pitch, but I think that’s the probably the way we’d go.
“It gives him an opportunity. He’s playing really well and working on his game, and that’s all we can ask.
“He’s ready to go. We hope he gets his chance and away he goes.”
Should Clarke be unavailable, Australia may call all-rounder Glenn Maxwell into their squad for the first time in the series, with room too perhaps for the return of leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed. Australia have endured a disappointing tour, an early exit in the Champions Trophy followed by a 3-0 Ashes defeat and then a 1-1 draw in two Twenty20s.
Lehmann said: “It gets down to a grand final set-up now –which is great.
“That’s what we want the players put under most of the time, although you would have loved to close out the series [in Cardiff].
“We’re certainly playing the right brand of cricket. We just made a couple of elementary mistakes.
“Apart from that, we’ve pretty much played how we want to play. Now the case is we want to finish on a high and get moving on.”
Meanwhile, Michael Carberry believes he completed only “half the job” with his maiden one-day international half-century in Cardiff.
Carberry combined with captain Eoin Morgan in a stand of 104 as England recovered, after Clint McKay’s hat-trick, to pull off a chase of 227 all out.
The three-wicket victory perhaps owed even more to Jos Buttler’s second consecutive ODI fifty but, either way, opener Carberry’s reward for his effort is the opportunity to push for a 2-1 series success in front of his home crowd.
The Hampshire left-hander, whose sole Test match came against Bangladesh in Chittagong three-and-a-half years ago, had hoped to make his Twenty20 international debut in Southampton earlier this month.
England stuck with former Hampshire batsman Michael Lumb and Alex Hales for that match but, after a sticky start to his ODI career, 32-year-old Carberry will have his chance in his most familiar surroundings after his first three ODI innings had brought him just 15 runs.
After adding a crucial 63 in Wales, he said: “I was pleased I got myself in, still my first ODI series, and got a few runs in a winning cause. I still think it was half a job done, though. So I’ve something to work on to make sure, if I get in, I can be finishing it off next time.”