Michael Clarke
Clarke's injury raises fears over his participation in the Ashes.

Australia captain Michael Clarke's Ashes hopes continue to hang in the balance after the 32 year old was ruled out of the Champions Trophy opener against England on Saturday.

Clarke underwent treatment on a back problem which forced him to miss Australia's two warm-up games against West Indies and India and will now keep him out of the opening group match at Edgbaston.

The long-term injury reared its head during the tour to India and fears are rife that Clarke may be absent for Australia's entire Champions Trophy campaign, which continues on Wednesday against New Zealand, as well as the summer's five-test Ashes series starting in July.

"Michael is making steady progress in his recovery from the recent lower back injury but is yet to return to training," said Alex Kountouris, the Australian team physio.

"He will remain in London over the coming days to continue his rehabilitation and will not be available for the first match against England on Saturday. How he responds to the ongoing treatment will determine his availability for the match against New Zealand next Wednesday."

Following initial suggestions Clarke could miss the match with England this weekend, coach Micky Arthur played down fears regarding the skipper's continued participation this summer.

"I am concerned but confident we will have him firing somewhere in this tournament for us and then into the Ashes," Arthur said.

Injury to Clarke is not only a huge blow to his side's Champions Trophy hopes, but Australia can ill-afford to be without him during an Ashes series where much of the tourists' hopes rest on his shoulders.

Alongside vice-captain Brad Haddin, Clarke is one of the most experienced members of the Australia squad selected for the Ashes, and with many of the top order faltering with the bat, the New South Wales born batsman's impressive record will prove crucial across a five match test series.