Captain’s blade of glory

Greg BaumIF THERE is a cricket ground that could contain Michael Clarke right now, it is not the economy-sized Adelaide Oval and its welcome mat of a pitch. If there is an attack that could limit him, it is not this South African set, made threadbare this day by injury and left to cower before his broad and tireless blade. There is, of course, a record book that can confine him, but it will take much re-writing. Here’s a start: no one previously has made four 200-plus scores in a calendar year, and only once has Australia made more runs in a single Test day.
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So wholly did Clarke again tower over this extraordinarily replete day that he made a distant, if thrilling memory of Dave Warner’s run-a-ball century in the morning and – for the second time in two innings – overshadowed Mike Hussey’s unbeaten hundred in the afternoon.

Well, almost. The ball after Clarke raised his second consecutive double-century, Hussey brought up his second century in a row by smiting hapless leg-spinner Imran Tahir into the construction zone at mid-wicket where, aptly, it came to rest among some reinforcing. It was not so much an upstaging as a joint staging.

This was a day of two halves, both belonging to Australia, the rout that was the second made inexorable by the vigour and impudence of the first. Against half an attack, in half a ground, Australia in the morning played half-and-half cricket, Test20 if you like – 4-210 in half a day wasn’t half-bad for entertainment.

But the battle was only half-won. Another wicket then might have led to a toppling, for Australia is like the Adelaide Oval, still rebuilding and waiting for the footings to set. Blessedly for Australia, there was a constant in Clarke, its constant constant since he was appointed captain to universal lack of acclaim 15 months ago.

Clarke’s figures tell their own epic tale, yet tell only a part. In Australia’s 25 Test innings in the Clarke era, only 10 times has it reached 100 less than three wickets down. Following what seems always to be an experimental top order, there nearly always is work to be done. Some will say this argues for his elevation; I reckon it means leaving well alone. Updating the old cliche, Clarke is playing a captain’s career.

Thursday was another classic of the genre. Australia (read Warner) began boldly, but suddenly was 3-55. Ed Cowan and Ricky Ponting were felled – literally – by crafty Jacques Kallis outswingers, and Rob Quiney’s misfortune was to hit what others missed from Morne Morkel in these preliminaries. Alarm rather than cathedral bells rang, muted only by the laming of Kallis.

In Brisbane, much was rightly made of Clarke’s driving on the rise. Again on Thursday, it was plentifully evident, a barging shot, like a Mark Latham handshake, but more subtle. More or less this way, he thumped Morne Morkel for five fours in an over, so reaching 150 in a single Superman bound. Clarke played in all modes and moods, at first as foil to Warner, then following his cue.

Able on this true pitch to meet the ball almost prematurely early or posthumously late, adjusting ball by ball, Clarke left the South African bowlers with no margin for error.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.