Australia v India, 1st Test, MCG, 4th day December 29, 2011

MCG victory needs repeating - Clarke

Australia scaled great heights against India in Melbourne, and rightly celebrated some hours later with a raucous rendition of the team chant "Under the Southern Cross" in the middle of a deserted MCG. Michael Clarke's team had done much the same in Galle, Johannesburg, and Brisbane before it. Each of those Test wins demonstrated skill, courage, organisation and spirit, and ran a gamut of conditions.

But the team's ability to secure such results repeatedly remains open to question, given that the nightmares of Cape Town and Hobart fell in among those performances. Clarke has not yet lost a series as captain, but he is also yet to win more than one Test in a series. To defeat India and secure the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, he will need to do so.

As he basked in the afterglow of the victory, Clarke acknowledged the gap in an otherwise compelling captaincy CV. Leading a team of burgeoning talent but plenty of flaws, he is conscious of going to Sydney with a greater accent on repeating the good of Melbourne while remedying the bad.

"Consistency is what I've spoken about in the past," Clarke said. "There's periods throughout that game where we didn't perform as well as we'd like, so we need to look to improve that come Sydney. We need to assess conditions and see what XI we decide to take into that Test match, but against such a good team you can't afford to give them a sniff at all.

"When you're on top you need to make the most of that. I think we did that really well today with the ball, and we fought really hard with the bat yesterday and again this morning. It certainly is a time to enjoy this success, this first Test match, but once tonight's gone it is about re-assessing, working out how we can improve and go out all guns blazing in Sydney and try to win another Test match."

In James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus and perhaps Ryan Harris, Clarke has the fast bowling he needs to keep India uncomfortable. In Nathan Lyon he has a spin bowler who will keep attacking even if India respond in kind. And in Australia he has an environmental advantage that was discussed by the team prior to Boxing Day.

"I think everyone's more comfortable playing at home, the advantage of knowing conditions helps any team, and I think we made the most of that on this wicket," Clarke said. "All of our batters knew it was going to be quite tough on this wicket, we knew it was going to be hard to start and if you got in it was about cashing in, and I think we've seen that throughout this Test match.

"I think the last three Test matches there's been plenty there for the bowlers, but your bowlers need to execute as well. As we've seen with Patto [Pattinson], these bowlers have got the skill, it is just about being able to execute their plans."

Consistent displays with the ball were able to overshadow some poor choices with the bat, particularly at the start of the second innings when three batsmen dragged balls onto the stumps in the course of a slide to 4 for 27. Clarke pointed to the conditions as a mitigating factor.

"What this Test match shows me is if we can knock over such a strong batting line-up like India for the amount of runs we have, there's got to be something in the wicket as well, can't just be our batters," he said. "We copped a bit of criticism for being four for not many in the second innings, but there's reasons for that, reasons for Cape Town, reasons for Hobart. They've been bowling-friendly conditions.

"I'm really happy with our batters' plans. I think we've been training as hard as any team I've been part of. So we're doing the right things, it is just about having the confidence and freedom to continue to back ourselves."

For all of the joy surrounding the Melbourne win, and contributions ranging from those of Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting to that of the debutant Ed Cowan, Clarke acknowledged there was plenty of staunch cricket still required to make the series safe. As his team have made a habit of showing recently, a week can be an awful long time in the mind and hands of a cricketer.

"There's a long way to go in this series," Clarke said. "I think it is important we enjoy our success, we've worked really hard and we deserve this win because of the amount of effort and time we've put into our preparation, but it means nothing come Sydney.

"We have to enjoy tonight, prepare well for Sydney, and play our best cricket to beat such a strong team. We'll take some confidence out of this Test match no doubt, but there is a long way to go."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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