Clarke plays down injury fears

Australia Test vice-captain Michael Clarke is confident his stiff back won't affect his Ashes preparations despite failing to take the field for the final two sessions on day three of the Sheffield Shield clash between New South Wales against Victoria.

Clarke's chanceless century was the highlight of an otherwise disappointing day for NSW, underlining his importance to the national team ahead of the upcoming Test series against England.



The 29-year-old struck only four boundaries in his classy knock of 113 on a slow SCG outfield, and the running between the wickets took a toll as he was forced to sit out the remainder of the day.



But Clarke, who has battled back issues in the past, was quick to allay any fears the injury will keep him out of the opening Test against England at the Gabba beginning on November 25.



"I'm certainly not too concerned about it to be honest," Clarke said afterwards.



"I was just listening to the experts and doing what was right. I think it's more so because of what we've got coming up we wanted to be smart.



"It's just stiff, I just pulled up a little bit stiff.



"It was a bit sandy out there so it's a bit hard on your legs ... so we thought with what's coming up I'm better off doing all the right things.



"I had some treatment and I've got to see how it pulls up tomorrow morning, but hopefully it'll be right to get back out there again tomorrow."



Clarke added of his 348-minute stay at the crease: "Obviously any time you make a hundred is a great feeling, but more than anything else for me it was about spending as much time in the middle as I possibly could.



"So I was stoked with that, to be able to face so many balls and help contribute to the team as well."



Meanwhile, Australia spinner Nathan Hauritz made a welcome return to form, finishing with the respectable figures of two for 47 off 21 overs after taking the new ball in Victoria's second innings.



"I thought he bowled really well today," Clarke said of Hauritz's performance.



"Under pressure opening the bowling, I thought he bowled real well.



"And I thought he bowled pretty well the other day without too much luck. A couple of balls lobbed over fielders' heads, (and there were) a couple of dropped catches.



"I think he's slowly building momentum and his confidence is certainly growing.



"And I know he's certainly excited about this first Test match in Brisbane and hoping he gets selected, and I think if he continues to bowl the way he has in this game I think his results and his figures will look a lot different."

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