Cricket: Australia skipper Clarke fit and raring to go against NZ

Cricket: Australia skipper Clarke fit and raring to go against NZ
Australia's Michael Clarke plays a shot in the match against England in Manchester, on September 8, 2013

Eager Australia captain Michael Clarke feels his fittest in five years and is praying for clear skies over Auckland for the World Cup clash against fellow co-hosts New Zealand on Saturday.

On the comeback from hamstring surgery, Clarke was denied his scheduled return against Bangladesh in Brisbane last week when the match was washed out.

The rain was also lashing down at Eden Park when Clarke faced the media on the eve of the New Zealand clash, though the clouds cleared to bathe the ground in sunshine and the forecast is for more sun on Saturday.

Clarke's hamstring has been one of the most talked-about topics over the Australian summer, the 33-year-old having suffered three separate strains in a number of months to fuel speculation his playing days might be numbered. "I feel really good," Clarke told reporters. "The work I've put in has given me a chance to get back out in the park and be able to play at 100 per cent, run and don't be restricted where I field, bat, ball and that was our goal.

"It doesn't guarantee I'm not going to get injured again. "The confidence I have in my mind and my body at moment has been because of the work I've put in over the last nine weeks, so when I can walk out on to the field tomorrow and go at a hundred miles an hour, and if I get injured, I get injured. "I'm like every other player, and I'm back - I feel like I'm as fit and as healthy as I've been in at least five years. "The strength that I've put into my back and hamstrings holds me in good stead for the future moving forward. So I'm ready to go." Clarke will have a tough reinstatement against in-form New Zealand, who have won all three of their World Cup matches and will be roared on by an expected sell-out crowd.

The makeup of Australia's 11 remains a mystery but stand-in captain George Bailey, who led the team to victory in their World Cup opener, is expected to make way for Clarke.

Young paceman Pat Cummins may replace seamer Josh Hazlewood to join Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc in the pace attack.

Clarke dismissed the notion that Australia were less prepared than New Zealand due to a lack of recent matches. "The boys have had a long summer," he said. "The amount of cricket that Australia has played, test and ODI cricket, everybody is as well prepared as they can be."

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