Michael Clarke bats in MCG nets

GREG BUCKLE
Last updated 13:27 24/12/2012
Michael Clarke
Reuters
ON THE MEND: Michael Clarke was forced to retire hurt in the first test.

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Australia captain Michael Clarke has continued his battle to prove his fitness for the Boxing Day test against Sri Lanka by batting in the nets for 15 minutes at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The skipper faced throw-downs from assistant coach Stuart Law under the watchful eye of coach and selector Mickey Arthur.

Clarke, who suffered a hamstring injury during last week's first test win in Hobart, says he's confident of being able to take his place in the side.

Vice-captain Shane Watson, who has led the side in eight games at one-day international level, is set to take over as skipper if Clarke is ruled out.

Former test No.3 Usman Khawja, dropped from the team a year ago, is in the 13-man squad and is on standby for Clarke.

The 31-year-old Clarke is the leading test runscorer for 2012 and is only 55 runs shy of Ricky Ponting's national calendar-year record of 1544 runs in 2005.

However the fact that the Melbourne (December 26-30) and Sydney (January 3-7) tests are virtually back-to-back will be a factor in Cricket Australia's decision on Clarke's fitness for the Melbourne clash.

Australia lead the three-match series 1-0.

Chairman of selectors John Inverarity said yesterday he would prefer to take a conservative approach to Clarke's fitness.

"He is 50-50," Inverarity said.

"He is working hard on his recovery."

Clarke emerged again later to have a bat for about 20 minutes against the spinners and pace bowlers including left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson.

Former test batsman Dean Jones, who has been invited by Arthur to act a mentor to the side for the Melbourne clash, said Clarke was showing good form.

"He flushed it in the nets. He was absolutely superb," Jones said.

"Batting-wise, he was fine.

"I couldn't fault him at all."

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