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Clarke to miss England clash

Australia captain Michael Clarke has been ruled out of tomorrow’s Champions Trophy group match against England at Edgbaston with a lower back injury, Cricket Australia has confirmed.

Clarke, pictured, was absent from the warm-up games against West Indies and India and his continued fitness concerns will be a worry ahead of the Investec Ashes series.

Cricket Australia physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said: "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.

"How he responds to the ongoing treatment will determine his availability for the match against New Zealand next Wednesday."

Clarke has suffered back problems during his career and his priority will be a return to fitness ahead of the Ashes series which starts at Trent Bridge on July 10.

He most recently suffered a recurrence with the problems during the 4-0 series defeat in India and missed the final Test due to back and hamstring injuries.

Clarke, 32, is one of Australia's main batting threats and he has undergone specialist treatment in London in a bid to regain his fitness ahead of the Champions Trophy.

However, he has now lost his race to be fit for Australia’s opening match, and due to the compact nature of the tournament - with Australia's three pool games wrapped up by Monday week - he is short on time to return to full fitness to feature in the competition with questions now hanging over his Ashes involvement.

George Bailey will lead Australia tomorrow, in Clarke's absence.

"We'd love to have 'Pup' with us as a batsman and as our captain, he said. “There’s no doubt it’s a blow.

“But it is what it is, and we have to deal with the fact that we don't have him for tomorrow.

"The challenge is there and the opportunity is there for the rest of us to step up, and I know it will be a great boost to the side to know that we can win without him.

"We had to do it quite a bit over the (Australian) summer in the one-day format, so we know we can."

Australia know nonetheless they need Clarke fit again as soon as possible - initially for their remaining two Group A matches in the Champions Trophy, and for the Ashes beyond.

"He's desperate to play in this tournament, then going forward one-day cricket as well," Bailey added. "So he's doing everything he can."

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