x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Michael Clarke wants to keep 'eyes on the field' amid controversies

Australia captain says they have 'a really important job to do' and nothing will distract them.

Michael Clarke wants Australia to focus on the job at hand. Philip Brown / Reuters
Michael Clarke wants Australia to focus on the job at hand. Philip Brown / Reuters
LONDON // Australia will be greeted by blazing sunshine and a venue where they lost only once in the last century when they arrive at Lord's on Thursday for the second Ashes Test against England, determined to level the five-match series.

Britain is engulfed in a heatwave, which is forecast to last throughout the match, and conditions for the first Test at Trent Bridge were reminiscent of the Indian sub-continent. After heroic last-wicket stands in each innings, Australia lost by 14 runs on Sunday.

But they will be buoyed by the resilience and resource they showed at the midpoint of a horrible year in which they have been beaten 4-0 in India and failed to advance past the first round of the Champions Trophy.

The touring side's cause was hardly advanced with news on Tuesday that their former South African coach Mickey Arthur, who was sacked 16 days before the Trent Bridge Test, had alleged he was the victim of discrimination and was demanding reinstatement or US$3.6 million (Dh13.2m) in compensation.

Australia will relish the sun and the surroundings at the home of world cricket. To recover from one-down and regain the Ashes, though, their top-order batting must fire and Usman Khawaja may come in at number three to replace the out-of-form Ed Cowan.

"He had a tough game," Aussie coach Darren Lehmann said. "We've told Ed how we want him to play and how we want him to bat. That certainly hasn't changed from when he first came into the side.

"He'll be disappointed with the shots. So are we.

"We've certainly got to bat better as a top order that's probably the key. We're going to bowl very well and we know we can control their batters. It's a matter of making more runs."

Clarke, who enjoyed a wondrous 2012 with 1,595 runs at an average of precisely 106, failed in both innings after his buildup was hampered by a chronic back ailment.

The only other Australian batsman of comparable pedigree is the highly gifted but perennially frustrating Shane Watson, who contributed 46 to a second-innings opening partnership of 84. Australia urgently need an innings from Watson of a stature to match his talent and Lord's would be the perfect setting to shrug off the underachiever's tag.

But he will be under even more pressure after it was reported in Australia that Arthur had claimed Clarke had described his former vice-captain as "a cancer" in the side. Clarke would not entertain such talk ahead of the second Tests, instead preferring to focus on the task at hand.

"I've spoken a lot in the past about my relationship with Shane, and so has Shane, so I'm not going to go into that," he said.

"I'm not going to go backwards, it's about looking forward.

"It's important for me to keep my eyes on the field. We as a team know we have a really important job to do in this Test match and for the rest of this series. So none of this will be a distraction to me personally and it certainly won't be to the team.

"I think we showed that to all of the media and the public over the five days playing in Nottingham and we'd like to continue to show that in this second Test match at Lord's."


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