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Clarke denies rift with Watson

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Australian skipper Michael Clarke, left, Wednesday denied any rift with vice-captain Shane Watson as the all-rounder was ruled out of the second Test against South Africa. Photo by Morne de Klerk

Adelaide, Australia – Australian skipper Michael Clarke Wednesday denied any rift with vice-captain Shane Watson as the all-rounder was ruled out of the second Test against South Africa.

Watson has been troubled by a calf injury and tried this week to prove his fitness after missing the drawn series-opener in Brisbane earlier this month.

But Clarke said doubts about Watson's injury prompted Australia to go with an unchanged team for the second Test in Adelaide, which starts on Thursday.

“He has improved a lot over the last few days... but is probably a few days short of being 100 percent,” Clarke said.

He added that his vice-captain would have time to get himself right for the third Test, which starts in Perth four days after the scheduled end of the Adelaide showdown.

“Once we got here, our intent was to give Watto every chance, as a very important player and vice-captain of the team but unfortunately we've run out of time,” Clarke said.

The captain dismissed speculation of a rift with Watson, stressing there was no communication breakdown with his deputy ahead of the Adelaide Test.

Clarke said he was aware of rumours suggesting he and Watson were failing to see eye-to-eye, but added that both senior players had a good personal and professional relationship.

“I know there's been talk of that being a little bit different,” Clarke said.

“(But) not at all. We have a great relationship.

“Watto and I, our friendship and our professional relationship when it comes to captain and vice-captain, is as close as I can certainly ask for.”

Senior batsman Ricky Ponting warned this week against playing a not fully fit Watson, saying it would place too much pressure on his teammates if he was used against the Proteas while injured.

“No one can go into a Test match 70 percent fit,” Ponting told reporters on Tuesday. “I don't care if you're a batsman and a slip fielder. If you can't bat at 100 percent, then you are putting pressure on other blokes as well.”

Rob Quiney, who made his Test debut in place of Watson in Brisbane, is expected to bat again at number three, while left-arm paceman Mitchell Starc remains the 12th man.

Clarke said he and the selectors stuck with swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus because of the improvement they saw from the bowling attack in the latter days of the Brisbane Test.

“I thought the bowlers came back really well. We took 14 South African wickets where they took five of ours,” he said.

“I think we've got a good combination. We've got a good mixture of aggression but also bowlers who can bowl long spells and dry runs up if required out there on that wicket.

“Generally in Adelaide, you have to bowl quite tight during periods of the game.”

Australia - Michael Clarke (capt), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Rob Quiney, Ricky Ponting, Mike Hussey, Matthew Wade, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Nathan Lyon, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Starc (12th man). – Sapa-AFP


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