Australia started their tour of England with the warm-up game against Somerset on Wednesday © Getty Images
Tauton: Jun 27, 2013
Australia captain Michael Clarke has urged his team-mates to put their recent off-field problems behind them and concentrate on the business of regaining the Ashes after a troubled build-up to next month’s first Test against England.
Clarke, Australia’s best batsman, returned to action against Somerset on Wednesday following a recurrence of a longstanding back problem in the first of two warm-up maches — the tourists also face Worcestershire — before the first Test at Trent Bridge on July 10.
The Somerset match was also former Test batsman Darren Lehmann‘s first as Australia head coach after Mickey Arthur was sensationally sacked on Monday just 16 days out from the Ashes.
“Our mindset as a group is to move forward, there is no doubt about it,” Clarke told Sky Sports. “I think the boys trained really well yesterday and a lot of guys have come down early today to get some work in. We’re working really hard.
“We know that improvement’s needed from what’s happened in the past,” Clarke added.
Australia made an early exit from the ICC Champions Trophy, where they also lost to England, and are without opener David Warner for the Somerset and Worcestershire games.
Warner was banned by Cricket Australia after admitting punching England batsman Joe Root in a Birmingham bar following the Champions Trophy defeat.
Warner’s suspension came just a few weeks after he was fined for an abusive Twitter rant at two Australian cricket journalists but Clarke said now was the time to focus on cricket.
“In our team nobody’s guaranteed selection, you’ve got to earn the right to play in the first Test match and we’ve got two practice games for the boys to make the most of the opportunity,” he said.
“There’s nothing more special for an Australian player, and I’m sure it’s the same for the English, than an Ashes series.
“We know we’re the underdogs and we’re looking forward to the challenge.
“Hopefully we can start with this game and build some momentum into that first Test match.”
Meanwhile Arthur arrived back in Perth, Western Australia, where the South African confirmed to waiting reporters his mother had died from cancer.
Australia’s players in Taunton wore black armbands as a mark of respect.
“Mickey as coach was very close to us all and we felt the desire to mark our respects,” a Cricket Australia spokesman said.