Australia v India, 4th Test, Adelaide, 2nd day

Clarke's best man

Daniel Brettig at Adelaide Oval

January 25, 2012

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Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting put on 386 for the fourth wicket, Australia v India, 4th Test, Adelaide, 2nd day, January 25, 2012
Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting demoralised India again © AFP
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Michael Clarke still needs Ricky Ponting. If not always as a tactical adviser on the field then certainly as a wise head in the dressing room and a similarly ravenous batsman in the middle. Between them they can construct the most authoritative partnerships of any two batsmen in this Australian side, and in Sydney and Adelaide their unions have sapped India.

The SCG stand was made to look fleeting by comparison with the 386 runs piled up at Adelaide Oval, but both demonstrated Ponting's best value to Clarke. As a batting duo they bounce off one another perfectly, playing in styles that contrast in ways that split the field. All the while they are coaching and encouraging each other, spotting faults in their partner's technique or lauding strengths.

As Clarke hinted when he spoke in the aftermath of their dual double centuries, his resolve with Ponting to stay together at the crease has been strengthened enormously by the pain of last summer's Ashes defeat. Innings by innings each long occupation begins to atone for those not achieved against Andrew Strauss' Englishmen.

"It's always nice to see us both scoring runs when we bat together," Clarke said. "We've known each other for a long time, played a lot of cricket together. It's nice to spend some time in the middle. Both of us were disappointed with our series last summer and we've worked hard on our games to improve … it's nice to be scoring some [runs] this summer.

"We know each other's games quite well so we can certainly communicate to what we're seeing, if we feel like we can help. We speak a lot when we bat about what the other person has seen, to get help and advice and to keep both of us going and this innings was no different."

Clarke's effort elevated him to the rare club of batsmen to score a double century and a triple in the same series. Its other members are Don Bradman and Walter Hammond, neither of whom managed it when they were leading their team. On an Adelaide pitch of the most friendly characteristics, Clarke's mind was less on records than the scoreboard.

"I didn't know that but it's very nice to have scored some more runs," Clarke said. "That wicket's very flat out there to bat on. Ricky and I spoke early in our innings, once we got in again today, it was about going on and making big ones. The positive is it's nice to score some more runs and to have 600 runs on the board. The other side of that though is that it's going to take a hell of a lot of work to take 20 wickets on that wicket.

"It's very special, there's no doubt about it. One thing I've never really been too bothered about is statistics and records. It's about playing the game. It's about trying to do whatever you can to help your team win. If records come along like that, it's very special."

Following a 2011 of introspection and change, Clarke is enjoying the best of times in his career so far. He is gaining respect and admiration with each innings, but has not forgotten that there may be more meagre days ahead. The plight of India and their suspended captain MS Dhoni is proof enough of that.

"I don't think it matters if you're captain or not. It's a tough game. It's the toughest game in the world," Clarke said. "For Ricky and I to have individual performances and team performances like this, it's why you train so hard. It's very satisfying. It's about enjoying the good times and when you're not doing so well it's continue to work hard and have the confidence in your own ability that things are going to turn around for you."

Turn has not been in much evidence across this series, and has again been absent so far in Adelaide. However Clarke preferred to hope for deterioration, offering spin for Nathan Lyon and variable bounce for the fast men. Umesh Yadav was one visiting bowler to gain some sharp reverse swing at times, something the Australians may be able to utilise against the heavier legs of India's batsmen.

"Hopefully we'll see some deterioration especially in the back half of day four and day five - tomorrow it's going to be pretty nice to bat on," Clarke said. "A couple of balls stayed a little bit low, but it's as good a batting wicket as you're going to get. The bowlers are going to have to bowl well and we're going to have to hang onto every chance in the field."

The man standing in Australia's path is Sachin Tendulkar, he of 99 international centuries. Clarke was asked somewhat flippantly if he would show Tendulkar any sympathy. Given the pitch, and the rewards of a relentless approach with the bat, Clarke's response was no surprise.

"No I certainly won't be showing him any sympathy," he said. "We're there to win the game. He's a wonderful player, and he's going to be really tough to get out on that wicket. Somehow we're going to have to find a way to do it twice."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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