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Bailey hopeful over Clarke fitness

Australia expect Michael Clarke to be fit to face England in their Champions Trophy opener despite the captain being sent to London for specialist treatment on his troublesome lower-back injury.

Clarke, pictured, suffers from long-standing back trouble and his last two Ashes tours were hindered by problems in that area.

The issue flared up again before the final Test of Australia's 4-0 series defeat in India two months ago, and he has been unable to play a part in their Champions Trophy warm-up games, including today's crushing 243-run defeat to India in Cardiff.

A decision over Clarke's availability for Saturday's Edgbaston meeting will be taken in due course but George Bailey, who led the side in Clarke's absence, said: "It is just precautionary with him. It's his back which is always going to be the issue with Michael.

"He has had some stiffness there in the last couple of days and with such an important tournament coming up we did not see fit to risk him in these games, and it's a reasonably big summer after this tournament as well so it is a case of managing him almost on a day-to-day basis.

"The plan is for him to play Saturday, that is what we are working towards, that he will be available Saturday."

He added: "It would be a huge blow if he is not available. He is our best batsman and our captain and he is someone we need in the side and look forward to having in the side."

Australia had started their final pre-tournament run-out well by reducing India to 55 for five, but a superb 211-run partnership between Dinesh Karthik and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who hit 146 not out and 91 respectively, helped them recover to reach 308 for five from their 50 overs.

Umesh Yadav then took 5-18 as Australia were skittled for just 65 in 23.3 overs.

"It's not ideal," said Bailey. "I don't think you ever want to have a game like that whether it is practice or not. It's not something we are particularly happy with.

"I thought we started well with the ball but maybe just fell away a little bit. Having said that they batted pretty well and it looked a very good batting wicket.

"It looked that if you kept wickets in hand there were plenty of runs to be had, but when it came to us to respond there wasn't much there. All in all it was a pretty disappointing day."

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