Clarke heads home as Australia chase semis place
Star Australia batsman Michael Clarke pulled out of the ICC Champions Trophy on Tuesday after failing to recover from a back injury.cricket Updated: Sep 30, 2009 15:31 IST
Star Australia batsman Michael Clarke pulled out of the ICC Champions Trophy on Tuesday after failing to recover from a back injury.
Vice-captain Clarke has been unable to train since arriving in South Africa last week following a 6-1 drubbing of England and the Australian selectors are set to name a replacement soon.
Clarke complained of pain in the second half of the one-day series in England and Australia physiotherapist Alex Kountouris told reporters it intensified in South Africa.
It is the second injury blow to the defending champions in the two-week tournament after a knee problem forced crack bowler Nathan Bracken to return home. Doug Bollinger replaced him.
Australia launched their campaign last Saturday by defeating a second-string West Indies side thanks to half-centuries from skipper Ricky Ponting and fast bowler Mitchell Johnson.
After Shane Watson suffered the humiliation of a second Champions Trophy duck, Ponting and Michael Hussey contributed half-centuries as Australia made 234-4 against India before a storm brought play to an end.
Australia return to SuperSport Park on Wednesday to face Pakistan, who are sure of a semi-finals place having collected four points from contrasting victories over West Indies and India.
Needing just 134 runs to pass the West Indian total, they surrendered five wickets getting there. India brought out the best in Younus Khan and his men whose 302-run target proved too steep.
Australia have three points and India one in Group A, meaning that if the title holders lose in Centurion and India defeat the West Indies at the Wanderers, net run rate determines second place.
So as India seek a handsome win, they will be hoping for a favour from their fiercest rivals 40 kilometres up the Johannsburg-Pretoria highway if hopes of a place in the knockout phase are to be realised.
Despite successive victories from a Pakistani squad that can scale heights and plumb depths with alarming regularity, coach Intikhab Alam says his bowlers need to improve.
"Umar Gul and Mohammad Aamer gave away six no-balls, and free hits, against India, most of which were punished. Australia will not waste such offerings either," he warned.
"We are very strict at practice and always call no-balls in the nets. At times what happens is that pressure builds up and you stretch and strive and that is where you go wrong."