Clarke claims he is fit; question mark on Lee's fitness

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Brisbane, Nov 17 (UNI) Australian Vice-captain Michael Clarke, who arrived here last night, said he is fit and ready to play, but there is still a question mark on speedster Brett Lee's fitness for the first Test against New Zealand.

The fast bowler is still on antibiotics, but according to the Australian camp he is expected to train this morning and there is no indication he will be right to play.

Clarke dismissed claims he was seriously ill and had lost six kgs during the last Test against India in Nagpur, although Lee had dropped around that much weight battling a virus during the same period.

The world champions are anxious for the bowler to get some strength work in, and a good spell in the nets, before Thursday, but accept he will probably go into the game underdone.

Test opener Simon Katich backed his friend (Lee) to bounce back from a difficult tour of India where he struggled through lack of preparation and illness.

Lee returned from the four Test series with eight wickets at an average of 61 and carrying a debilitating bug that saw him placed on an intravenous drip during the last Test.

''He led the attack beautifully last summer,'' Katich was quoted as saying by 'The Australian'.

''His numbers this year really speak for themselves. He may not have had a great time of it in India but I know he is a fighter and he will fight back.'' ''The Australian conditions will definitely suit our quick bowlers,'' Katich said. ''More so than what we saw in India.

Unfortunately we didn't get the ball to reverse swing as we would have liked and there was no carry. Over here it will be much different and the quicks will enjoy that.

''In India the wickets just had no pace or carry. The Gabba will have both of those.'' UNI XC CS AB DS1440

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