Clarke confident, Katich ‘100 percent’ for Ashes opener

Sydney: Michael Clarke insists his back problem will be banished, while Simon Katich declared himself “100 percent” fit on Monday to take up his place at the top of the Australia batting order for the opening Ashes Test.

Australia named a 17-man squad for the first match of the series against England in Brisbane on Nov. 25 but losing Clarke or Katich would have been a huge blow for selectors.

Vice-captain and number four batsman Clarke, who has an average of 55.8 over 15 Ashes Tests, suffered a recurrence of a back injury while batting for his state at the weekend. “I’ve had very similar issues my whole career since making my debut for New South Wales as an 18-year-old kid so it’s certainly no different for me,” the 29-year-old told reporters on Monday.

“My back was a little bit stiff after batting for such a long period the other day but I’m very confident I’ll be right for the first Test match.”

Clarke will now miss the next round of Sheffield Shield matches this week.

“Rest will definitely help, I’ve played a fair bit of cricket of late and been on the road travelling as well,” he added.

“I think a bit of work with my physio and a bit of rest will do me the world of good ... and I’m confident I’ll be on a plane to Brisbane come Sunday.”

Opener Katich broke his finger on the tour of India earlier this year and spent a frustrating period on the sidelines before playing his first match in club cricket at the weekend.

“The injury’s healed. We’ve given it enough time and we’re good. It’s just a matter of being patient and it’s nice to be back 100 percent,” he told reporters.

Katich, who along with his fellow opener Shane Watson will be looking to give Australia a good foundation as they seek to wrest back the Ashes, said he was not concerned about English bowlers targeting the digit.

“I think they’ll be targeting a few other areas apart from the thumb,” the 35-year-old joked.

“Being an opening batsman I’m used to getting hit and the biggest worry is staying out there rather than getting hit. That’s the least of my worries.

“I’m just aiming to stay out there for long periods and get plenty of runs. Shouldn’t be a drama.

“We’ve spoken enough now and it’s time to get out there and play.”

Bureau Report

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