MELBOURNE // Michael Clarke has been ruled out of the Champions Trophy due to an injured back on the eve of a crucial match against Pakistan. Cricket Australia issued a statement saying the vice-captain Clarke would return from South Africa after succumbing to a persistent lower back problem. "Michael has had lower back pain since the latter part of the one-day series in England," Cricket Australia's physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said in a statement.
"On arriving in South Africa the pain has intensified and he has not been able to participate in any of the team's training sessions. "He has received intensive treatment but it is apparent that he will not be able to take any part in the remainder of this series." Clarke, 28, is a key member of the Australian limited-overs line-up, averaging almost 43 per innings in 163 ODIs and taking 52 wickets at about five runs per over with his orthodox spin. His athletic fielding and backup for the captain Ricky Ponting will also be missed by the Australians as the tournament progresses.
Cricket Australia has not yet nominated a replacement. The defending champions Australia won their opening match against the West Indies and their second group match against India was washed out by heavy rain, meaning the competition points were split. The Australians play Twenty20 world champions Pakistan at Centurion on Wednesday. * AP