Uncertainty continued over Australia's fast bowling stocks as Stuart Clark underwent a fitness test at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Saturday afternoon. The tall fast bowler, whose designated role is to bowl wicket to wicket and give captain Ricky Ponting a degree of control over the game, missed the second Test in Mohali after sustaining an elbow injury in the first Test at Bangalore.
Clark, along with bowling coach Troy Cooley and Stuart Karppinen, the fitness expert and former fast bowler, arrived at the Kotla shortly after 2 pm. Clark sent down about 10 deliveries with a plastic ball and then switched to a cricket ball, bowling the equivalent of approximately 10 overs with an old ball and later a new ball.
Earlier, Clark had told Australian newspapers that he should be fit in time for the third Test, beginning on October 29, but warned that there was a chance he would have to return to Australia if he could not prove his fitness in time. Australia might then have to seek out Shaun Tait, who has put in strong performances in the domestic competition over the last few days.
At the moment, though, it seemed as though Clark was on track to be fit, and Cooley said the fast bowler was "progressing well" and that the support staff would "monitor his condition closely" over the next few days.
The manner in which Clark bowled, it did appear that he was in good shape, trying out a variety of deliveries over the long spell.
Should Clark be fit, Australia will be left with a tricky decision. Peter Siddle, who made his debut in Clark's absence, had a good match in Mohali, bowling with verve and enthusiasm.
Brett Lee, who has been off the boil all series, only managed 4 wickets at 59.25. Lee was in the middle of an extensive programme to rediscover the spark that once made him Australia's most feared fast bowler. Lee's preparations for this series were seriously hampered when he missed out on about a month's training because of a protracted and painful break-up with his wife. Lee has been focusing on strength training, and other "dynamic" work, in order to crank his speed up to the 150 km mark.
However, Ponting has suggested that Lee may be used in a different role, should he be unable to rediscover that extra zip. "We'll have to look at how to get him to bowl in the Test if he can't bowl express," said Ponting.
"He'll have to play another role for us. If you look at his spells in the game it's probably been his first-up spell that's been his worst."
When an Australian captain is suggesting Lee not take the new ball, and perform a holding role rather than lead the attack, you know that the team's fast bowling resources are far from settled.