Clarke makes safe return as Australia rout UAE
Michael Clarke struck a half-century in an encouraging return from injury as Australia routed United Arab Emirates by 188 runs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday in their last warmup before the World Cup.
Leading the team after a long lay-off from hamstring surgery, Clarke promoted himself up the batting order to open with Aaron Finch and top-scored for the hosts with 64 from 62 balls after winning the toss on a sweltering day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Finch (61) and Steven Smith (59) also scored half-centuries as Australia put 304-8 on the board before bowling the Middle Eastern minnows out for 116 with nearly 20 overs to spare.
Clarke's knock would have lasted only 20 minutes and two runs had Amjad Ali not put down a diving chance at cover point and the 33-year-old also survived a shout for leg before in a streaky start to his innings.
After finding his range he took to UAE's bowlers with gusto and though his running between the wickets was never explosive, it appeared comfortable enough to please coach Darren Lehmann.
"He played really well, which is nice to see after coming back from the hamstring," Lehmann told host broadcaster Fox Sports.
Selectors gave Clarke a deadline to be fit by the second group match against Bangladesh on Feb. 21 and the captain appears in no danger to miss it.
Lehmann was cagey as to whether Clarke might even be ready to pad up against England for Australia's World Cup opener at the MCG on Saturday.
"We'll sum it up tomorrow, really, (on) how he pulls up more than anything," said Lehmann.
UAE, coached by former Pakistan bowler Aaqib Javed who won a World Cup with the team in 1992, were not disgraced in the field and briefly threatened to bowl Australia out with three quick wickets late in the innings.
Clarke raised warm cheers from the crowd of 3,000 by taking the ball in the 17th over to send down a few deliveries of his left-arm spin.
He bowled two wicketless overs for five runs.
Fast bowlers Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins took two top-order wickets each to continue their battle for a spot in Australia's pace attack, while middle-order batsman Swapnil Patil top-scored for UAE with 31.
Krishna Chandran was the pick of UAE's bowlers with 3-50.
Captain Michael Clarke is set to make his much-anticipated return for Australia in Wednesday's World Cup warm-up match against United Arab Emirates in Melbourne.
Clarke has been given the green light to captain his country for the first time in two months since needing surgery on a hamstring injury suffered in the first Test against India.
The 33-year-old's fitness battle has since become the centre point of his country's World Cup preparations after he was told by Cricket Australia he must prove his readiness to play by February 21.
That is the date Australia meet Bangladesh in their second Group A game and, despite his selection to meet the UAE, it remains Clarke's most likely competitive return.
Australia are unlikely to risk Clarke for their blockbuster opener against England at the MCG on Saturday even though coach Darren Lehmann revealed he had been "training the house down".
The skipper had joined up with the Australia team after easing back through Sydneygrade cricket before batting and bowling for a Cricket Australia XI last week.
Clarke's return was welcomed by young quick Josh Hazlewood who fronted the media in Melbourne after Clarke trained with his team-mates on Tuesday.
"Every player does as much rehab as they can and as much as they can do off the field to try and get back," Hazlewood said.
"He (Clarke) is doing everything he can to get back.
"Hopefully he gets through tomorrow night, he's our captain, so it's great to have him back.
"Just to have him around is very valuable for us and it helps us improve. The longer we have him around the better."
Lehmann had suggested on Monday night that Clarke was set to play, telling Fox Sports News: "Michael, if he gets through training tomorrow, hopefully he'll play the trial game on Wednesday.
"So that's a pleasing thing for us. He's trained the house down - now it's a case of getting up to speed with the fielding and away he goes from there."
Clarke was joined at training on Tuesday by all-rounders Shane Watson and James Faulkner who are both also recovering from injury.
Watson missed the tri-series final with hamstring tightness but did return for Australia's warm-up win over India in Adelaide earlier this week while Faulkner is being eased back after suffering a side strain in the Perth decider against England.
"Pup (Clarke) is playing tomorrow night and Watson played the other day. We're looking in pretty good shape," Hazlewood added.
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