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Khawaja covers for Clarke

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Ricky Ponting & Michael Clarke

Michael Clarke, right, could not take part in Australia’s training session in Brisbane today and is a doubt for the opening Test

Australia have called Pakistan-born batsman Usman Khawaja into their squad for the first Ashes Test as standby for vice-captain Michael Clarke.

Clarke is continuing his recovery from a back injury and a decision over his fitness to face England at the Gabba will be taken after the next two days of training.

“Michael Clarke is recovering from a lower back injury sustained in a recent Sheffield Shield game and is expected to train tomorrow and Wednesday,” said Cricket Australia physiotherapist Alex Kountouris.

“He is making good progress in this recovery and further assessment regarding his availability for selection will be made following the next two days of training.”

Clarke was unable to take part in Australia’s training session at Allan Border Field in Brisbane today as he nursed his latest bout of back trouble - having had to sit out last week’s round of Sheffield Shield matches.

“Michael is in the process of recovery,” added Kountouris. “Part of the plan was for him not to bat today but to bat tomorrow and Wednesday - and we hope he’ll be available for the game.

“I’m reasonably optimistic. But it will be after he bats tomorrow and recovers from that when we will really know how he is.”

Kountouris does not appear to be taking Clarke’s participation for granted at this stage, though.

He continued: “Until he bats tomorrow, we can’t be absolutely 100% sure that he’s okay to go. It’s something that just flared up, and unfortunately the timing of it is not great.

“If it had happened two weeks ago it wouldn’t be a problem. In another week he’d be okay - it’s whether we’ve timed our run correctly."

Cricket Australia national selection panel chairman Andrew Hilditch claimed 23-year-old New South Wales batsman Khawaja would prove a capable stand-in if called upon.

“As there is some doubt over Michael Clarke’s fitness for the Brisbane Test match, it was felt prudent to bring a standby player into the squad,” he said.

“Usman has been added as a result of his strong recent domestic form and the NSP’s belief that should the opportunity arise he has the ability to perform well at the international level.

“We intend to give Michael as much time as possible to prove his fitness and a decision on his availability will be made in consultation with the team’s medical staff after the next two days of training.”

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