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Clarke eyes perfect start

NatWest Series

Andrew Strauss & Michael Clarke

Michael Clarke, who will lead Australia in the first three ODIs before Ricky Ponting returns, poses with Andrew Strauss

Stand-in Australia captain Michael Clarke is aiming to hand the reigns back to Ricky Ponting with a 3-0 advantage in the NatWest Series.

Ponting returned to Australia to rest following England’s Ashes victory and the 34-year-old is set to return for the fourth one-day international of seven at Lord’s on September 12.

Clarke has been touted as a possible long-term successor to Ponting, but he insists his sole focus is on the short-term goal of winning the series after the disappointment of losing the Ashes, and not on taking over Ponting’s role.

“I have no doubt that Rick (Ponting) is our leader and I look forward to having him back,” said the 28-year-old, who will lead the tourists in tomorrow’s series opener at the Brit Oval.

“I’d like to get three wins under our belt so when he comes back life is a little easier for him.

“This series is a huge series for us; we really want to do well.

"We didn’t win the Test series. We have seven ODIs here so we have to try and win this series to take some positives from this English tour and build that momentum and success leading up to a big ODI tournament in the Champions Trophy.

"What I have been trying to express to the team is that every game is very important.

"We want to perform and win every game we play. That's how you build momentum.

"How you experience team bonding and team success is by getting wins under your belt, and we have a great opportunity to do that here."

Clarke, meanwhile, has warned England that fit-again Brett Lee is determined to put his summer of disappointment behind him by propelling Australia to NatWest Series glory.

A rib injury prevented the pace bowler playing any part in the Ashes, but he marked his return with two wickets in ODI win over Scotland before bouncing out Joe Denly during a brief but fiery opening burst in the opening Twenty20 international at Old Trafford.

"He looked sharp in the Twenty20s and he has been pretty sharp in the nets as well," Clarke said.

"He's as good as I've seen him. He's training as hard as I have seen him train and he certainly has the hunger so I'm certain he will have a really good one-day series."