Cricket: Clarke plays straight bat to rift allegations

Michael Clarke, Australian skipper on allegations of a falling out with deputy Shane Watson (above). Photo / NZPA
Michael Clarke, Australian skipper on allegations of a falling out with deputy Shane Watson (above). Photo / NZPA

Australian skipper Michael Clarke has denied talk of a rift with vice-captain Shane Watson, who yesterday was ruled out of the second test against South Africa in Adelaide.

Clarke addressed the rumours which emerged after the first test that he wasn't seeing eye-to-eye with Watson when he fronted a match eve media conference.

"No, not at all. We have a great relationship firstly," said Clarke.

"I know there's been talk of that being a little bit different but 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."

Confusion had reigned since Brisbane over whether Watson could be selected for the match starting today solely as a batsman, or if he would have to be fit to play as an allrounder to be selected.

In the end, it was decided Watson's calf strain was too much of a risk and he will be given more time to get himself right for the third test in Perth.

Australia stuck with the same side that secured a draw against the world No 1 Proteas at the Gabba, with Ben Hilfenhaus retained in the pace attack and young left-armer Mitchell Starc again missing out.

"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.

He said he and the selectors stuck with Hilfenhaus because they saw great improvement 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."

- AAP

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