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Clarke poised for Australia return

Michael Clarke is set to make his much-anticipated return for Australia in Wednesday’s World Cup warm-up match against United Arab Emirates in Melbourne.

Clarke has been given the green light to captain his country for the first time in two months since needing surgery on a hamstring injury suffered in the first Test against India.

The 33-year-old’s fitness battle has since become the centre point of his country’s World Cup preparations after he was told by Cricket Australia he must prove his readiness to play by February 21.

That is the date Australia meet Bangladesh in their second Group A game and, despite his selection to meet UAE, it remains Clarke’s most likely competitive return.

Australia are unlikely to risk Clarke for their blockbuster opener against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday even though coach Darren Lehmann revealed he had been “training the house down”.

The skipper had joined up with the Australia team after easing back through Sydney grade cricket before batting and bowling for a Cricket Australia XI last week.

Michael Clarke, here batting for a Cricket Australia XI last week, has been in a race to prove his fitness after a hamstring injury

Clarke’s return was welcomed by young quick Josh Hazlewood who spoke to the media in Melbourne after Clarke trained with his team-mates today.

“Every player does as much rehab as they can and as much as they can do off the field to try and get back,” Hazlewood said.

“He (Clarke) is doing everything he can to get back.

“Hopefully he gets through tomorrow night. He’s our captain, so it’s great to have him back.

“Just to have him around is very valuable for us and it helps us improve. The longer we have him around the better.”

Clarke was joined at training today by all-rounders Shane Watson and James Faulkner who are both also recovering from injury.

Watson missed the Tri-Series final with hamstring tightness but did return for Australia’s warm-up win over India in Adelaide earlier this week while Faulkner is being eased back after suffering a side strain in the Perth decider against England.

“Pup (Clarke) is playing tomorrow night and Watson played the other day. We’re looking in pretty good shape,” Hazlewood added.

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