Worries intensify over Clarke’s fitness

Worries are mounting about the fitness of Australia’s captain and best batsman Michael Clarke ahead of the Ashes, as he missed a second game because of a flare-up of his chronic back condition.

Clarke missed a Champions Trophy warm-up match in Cardiff overnight, and will leave the Australian squad to receive specialist treatment in London.

The captain has endured an ominous start to the three-month tour of the UK, missing the team’s first two games, and raising doubts about the 32-year-old’s ability to withstand the physical rigours of 10 consecutive Ashes Tests.

His degenerative back problem, which forced him to miss a Test for the first time in India in March, flared after the plane journey to the UK.

“Michael is still experiencing some lower back pain and as such is not fit for the warm-up game against India [on Tuesday],” said physiotherapist Alex Kountouris. “Michael will head to London tomorrow for specialist treatment and a decision on his fitness for next game will be made in due course.”

Clarke is in doubt for the start of Australia’s Champions Trophy campaign, against England on Saturday, but the priority will be for him to be fit for the first Ashes Test from July 10.

England has injury concerns of its own, with fast bowlers Stuart Broad and Steven Finn battling knee and shin injuries respectively, and Kevin Pietersen on the comeback trail.

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