Clarke bats, shapes up for first Test

Michael Clarke provided the strongest indication yet he will play the first Test, running and batting without incident on Saturday.

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Clarke joined the squad on Friday evening, seeking to return from a recurring hamstring injury when Australia’s rescheduled first Test against India starts at Adelaide Oval on Tuesday.

As teammates lifted weights on Saturday morning, Clarke instead grabbed his bat and tested his left hamstring in the nets.

It was a success.

Clarke had another hit when the main squad trained in the afternoon, having run a series of laps at Adelaide Oval.

The 33-year-old danced down the wicket without discomfort against offspinner Nathan Lyon, later having a one-on-one session with batting coach Michael Di Venuto.

The next hurdle will be how the skipper pulls up.

Vice-captain Brad Haddin would become the nation’s 45th Test captain if Clarke is unable to convince selectors he is fit.

But Haddin is yet to contemplate the prospect of shadow batsman Shaun Marsh taking Clarke’s place in the XI.

“Michael had a good hit today, he’s going to back up this afternoon,” Haddin said prior to training.

“I haven’t thought about it (captaining Australia in the absence of Clarke).

“All signs are that he is going in the right direction and we’re like everyone else, we want Michael out there.”

The Test squad remain in mourning after the shock death of Phillip Hughes and they all want Clarke, a rock for teammates over the past fortnight, to be there on day one.

On Thursday, Clarke attended a private cremation in Macksville with Hughes’ family while his teammates started to make their way to Adelaide.

The grief-stricken batsman will not undertake the normal pre-match captain’s press conference on Monday.

But on Saturday he returned to what he loves, training with the national side for the first time since tweaking his hamstring on November 14.

It was a fun-filled session – one of the features of coach Darren Lehmann’s tenure.

Australia have made a concerted effort to keep things normal leading up to the first Test, hoping they’ll produce the standard level of aggression in the game.

“Once we get out there, we’ll be there to play our style of cricket,” Haddin said.

Haddin had his own injury concern to conquer over the past month, hurting his shoulder on the recent UAE tour.

“I wouldn’t have come back to play if I wasn’t confident in it,” the 37-year-old said.

“I’ve got no ill effects. All systems go.”