MELBOURNE: Michael Clarke struck a half-century in an encouraging return from injury as Australia routed United Arab Emirates by 188 runs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday in their last warmup before the World Cup.
Leading the team after a long lay-off from hamstring surgery, Clarke promoted himself up the batting order to open with Aaron Finch and top-scored for the hosts with 64 from 62 balls after winning the toss on a sweltering day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Finch (61) and Steven Smith (59) also scored half-centuries as Australia put 304-8 on the board before bowling the Middle Eastern minnows out for 116 with nearly 20 overs to spare.
Clarke’s knock would have lasted only 20 minutes and two runs had Amjad Ali not put down a diving chance at cover point and the 33-year-old also survived a shout for leg before in a streaky start to his innings.
After finding his range he took to UAE’s bowlers with gusto and though his running between the wickets was never explosive, it appeared comfortable enough to please coach Darren Lehmann.
“He played really well, which is nice to see after coming back from the hamstring,” Lehmann told host broadcaster Fox Sports.
Selectors gave Clarke a deadline to be fit by the second group match against Bangladesh on Feb. 21 and the captain appears in no danger to miss it.
Lehmann was cagey as to whether Clarke might even be ready to pad up against England for Australia’s World Cup opener at the MCG on Saturday.
“We’ll sum it up tomorrow, really, (on) how he pulls up more than anything,” said Lehmann.
UAE, coached by former Pakistan bowler Aaqib Javed who won a World Cup with the team in 1992, were not disgraced in the field and briefly threatened to bowl Australia out with three quick wickets late in the innings.
Clarke raised warm cheers from the crowd of 3,000 by taking the ball in the 17th over to send down a few deliveries of his left-arm spin. He bowled two wicketless overs for five runs.
Fast bowlers Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins took two top-order wickets each to continue their battle for a spot in Australia’s pace attack, while middle-order batsman Swapnil Patil top-scored for UAE with 31.
Krishna Chandran was the pick of UAE’s bowlers with 3-50. (Reuters)