Clark series blow for Aus

2008-12-14 13:48

Rob Houwing

Cape Town – Australia suffered a major setback on the eve of the three-Test home series against South Africa when their metronomic seamer Stuart Clark was ruled out of the Perth opener and probably also the series.

Clark broke down on Sunday at the first Aussie training session at the WACA for Wednesday’s big showdown.

South Africa, meanwhile, finally expect a clean bill of health all-round, even if Paul Harris’s rustiness was exposed in the drawn final warm-up match against the Western Australian second-string.

Thumb in a cast

The left-arm spinner claimed 4/94, but in an expensive 15.5 overs and with seven sixes unflatteringly lashed off his bowling en route.

Proteas captain Graeme Smith admitted afterwards that Harris had “got to find his rhythm and confidence” in the remaining days of preparation for the Test after having his fractured thumb in a cast.

But Australian problems are altogether more severe: losing the experienced Clark, 33, was one of the last things they would have wanted.

A bone spur has been discovered in the back of an elbow and Clark is expected to require surgery – it would rule him out for up to six weeks.

Peter Siddle has been added to the Aussie squad as replacement. The 24-year-old has just one prior cap for his country; he played in the Mohali Test on Australia’s recent tour of India and claimed four wickets at a telling cost of 176 runs.

The Aussie camp have been quick to talk up Siddle’s “ability to get life out of a flat track” as he did to some extent on his debut, but the Proteas camp will, at the end of the day, be secretly relieved not to face Clark.

Player of the series

He has done an outstanding job of becoming the “new Glenn McGrath” for pressure-building accuracy in the Aussie side, delivering from close to the stumps and getting movement away from right-handers.

He made his debut spectacularly in Test cricket on the 2005/06 tour of South Africa, bagging match figures of 9/89 at Newlands and going on to claim 20 scalps over the three Tests at 15.75 and being named player of the series as the tourists humiliatingly won 3-0.

Siddle is tipped to play at the WACA, with Shane Watson still the likeliest omission from a 12-man Aussie squad and off-spinner Jason Krejza earning a start because the selectors believe it would be dangerous not to include a spinner in expected warm conditions at the WACA.