LONDON, 7 JUNE: In a blow to Australia’s Champions Trophy campaign, skipper Michael Clarke was today ruled out of their opening match against England tomorrow as he had yet to recover from a recurring back problem.
Clarke also missed out on the two warm-up games his team played, owing to the same problem. He came to London to see a specialist and would remain here for a few days for rehabilitation.
His availability for the rest of the tournament will depend on his recovery. George Bailey, who led the side in the warm-up games, is expected to captain the team when they begin their title defence tomorrow.
“Michael is making steady progress in his recovery from the recent lower back injury but is yet to return to training. He will remain in London over the coming days to continue his rehabilitation and will not be available for the first match against England on Saturday,” Cricket Australia physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said in a statement, adding: “How he responds to the ongoing treatment will determine his availability for the match against New Zealand on Wednesday.”
Australia, given the way things are, are looking more vulnerable than ever but
England will be looking to flourish in familiar conditions even though they endured a One-Day Internationals series loss to a rather weak New Zealand just before the Champions Trophy.
An overall assessment of their ODI statistics will reveal that, since 2010, England have won 23 and lost only 11 of the 37 matches they have played at home.
A look at the team sheets gives a fair idea of why the hosts will be the favourites tomorrow. Australia have been struggling to cope with what has been a tormenting transitional phase.
The side’s batting has looked brittle and this frailty was most recently exposed in their warm-up match against India last week when they were bowled out for just 65 runs whilst chasing 309.
They will rely a lot on on all-rounder Shane Watson, especially because of Clarke’s absence. Runs will be expected also from David Warner and Phil Hughes.
Their bowling line-up looks decent, though. Exciting young pace bowler James Faulkner would look to continue with his good form after picking up 28 wickets at 15.25 for Rajasthan Royals.
Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc are useful too but the lack of a quality slow bowler could inconvenience the team.
England look settled even though the absence of the injured Kevin Pietersen could hurt them.
Most of the English scoring is likely to be done by the team’s top-order trio of Ian Bell, Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott with Joe Root and Jos Buttler expected to build on a solid start.
Their bowling line-up is impressive with the formidable pace trio of James Anderson, Steven Finn and Stuart Broad supported competently by skilful spinner Graeme Swann.