Australia v India, 2nd Test, Sydney, 3rd day January 5, 2012

Michael Clarke erects a monument

Michael Clarke battled fatigue to give Australia a tremendous lead and then put his team's interests first by choosing not to pursue Brian Lara's world record
46

In A Private Man*, Malcolm Knox's fictional web of cricket, family and porn, a down-on-his-luck Australian batsman walks out to the SCG seeking a "monument", the kind of innings no-one can question. Chris Brand carves a triple century, rough-hewn but admirable, and concludes it with a haughtily glib press conference.

Michael Clarke is cut from very different cloth to Brand, whose hard-bitten visage, harsh tongue and bawdy off-field pursuits are drawn from an earlier era of international cricket, but his undefeated 329 in Sydney was monumental by any measure. This was far more apparent on day three than day two, as Clarke dragged his clearly tired limbs through another three hours and 78 runs to move from 251 to the highest score ever made at the ground.

It was a display of resolve over fluency, mind over matter, and team over individual. Clarke's chief intention throughout was to place his side in the optimum position, first getting them out of trouble, then putting them in the lead, then streaking away from India to invite the possibility of an innings victory. As his score grew and grew, surpassing milestones this way and that, Clarke's eyes were less on the record books than the scorecard and the Members Pavilion clock - he wanted maximum time to try to bowl India out on a surface that has been anaesthetised since day one's early life.

Nevertheless, in chasing a team imperative Clarke also erected a resounding statement about himself and his batting. There have been other innings played in more difficult circumstances, most memorably in Cape Town last year, but also at Lord's in 2009 and even his debut century against India on a Bangalore turner in 2004. But the Sydney effort outdid them all, at least in terms of its vastness and consistent command of the bowling. With the exception of a return catch shelled by Ishant Sharma when Clarke was 182, at no stage did he look anything but completely in control of himself and his shots. R Ashwin will seldom face a more confounding opponent, whose fleet-footed approach to finger spinners has caused no less an authority than Graeme Swann to call Clarke his most difficult opponent.

Against the fast bowlers, Clarke's driving, both straight and through cover, was elegance unsurpassed, and he also showed plenty of power when tensing his arms to pull-drive several shortish deliveries through straight midwicket. His onside flicks carried the faintest whiff of Mark Waugh, not least that which scurried across the straight midwicket boundary to take Clarke past 300. Next ball Clarke swished fruitlessly at a ball wide of the stumps, but it was an error worth mentioning only for how much a surprise it was.

Every monument, of course, requires scaffolding to support its construction, and in Michael Hussey Clarke had the best of partners. If the stand of 288 with Ricky Ponting was heavier with significance, Clarke's unbeaten 334 with Hussey was the most unrelenting. Only three more bountiful fifth-wicket stands have existed in Test history. Given a few of his recent travails, Hussey had every right to feast on tired bowlers, and his free scoring allowed Clarke to conserve energy with quieter periods, including 20 overs without a boundary on the third morning. Between Clarke's marathon, and Ponting's drought-breaker, Hussey's 150 assumes similar dimensions to Adam Gilchrist's century alongside Steve Waugh on this ground in the 2003 Ashes - among the very best innings noticed by no-one.

No-one except Clarke, who had clearly considered Hussey's impending 150 more closely than the galaxy of batting records within his own reach. His closure arrived as Hussey raised his bat in acknowledgement, right on drinks at the midpoint of the match. Most at the ground were still discussing whether or not Clarke would make a play for Brian Lara's world record, 72 runs away, and virtually all had recognised the passing of the 334 shared by Don Bradman and Mark Taylor as a given. Instead they were startled out of their seats by the sight of Clarke and Hussey jogging off, intent on rounding up India's batsmen a second time.

As the crowd recovered from their initial shock, admiration became the more universal sentiment. Clarke's performance was entirely worthy of the occasion, and he honoured it further by placing his team first. There were those in the past all too ready to criticise Clarke as a self-absorbed individual, mollycoddled by management and sponsors before his 20th birthday and living in a bubble ever since. Those detractors had been put in their place already by the end of the second day, and they shrank still further from view on the third.

It was not insignificant that Clarke made his runs with a clean-skin bat after Slazenger, the company that signed him up on a six-figure sum as a teenager, chose not to renew their deal with him for 2012. Having turned away from the Twenty20 dollar, Clarke has become far more of an establishment figure than had ever seemed possible when he began. Sydney has shown him to be much the better batsman for it, worthy of a place above the likes of Lara, RE Foster and Doug Walters as scorer of the highest innings at the grand old ground. His captaincy is gathering strength with each series, and by constructing a monument at the SCG, Clarke has the job for as long as he may want it. Even a character as gnarled as Chris Brand would have to be impressed by that.

*Also known as Adult Book.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • zenboomerang on January 7, 2012, 6:18 GMT

    @andrew-schulz... Agree... Both Ponting & Clarke came in when conditions still favoured the bowlers & managed to hang around until stumps... The 4th sessions still looked good for the bowlers until late when it settled down by lunch... Cannot blame the pitch on why India didn't get 600+ to draw the match.. Anyway, Clarke created his own history by becoming the 1st captain to reach 300+ not out / declare / & win the match... Now that is a great achievement...

  • Meety on January 7, 2012, 3:49 GMT

    @Boollins - I agree that I'd love to see Pup @ #3, but statistically he hasn't performed well outside of #5. I think #5 is good in that if we bat well he comes in against the spinners, if we are in trouble, he counter punches well. Would like Watto fit @ #6! @Talubar- ouch! Very funny!

  • handyandy on January 6, 2012, 12:44 GMT

    I used to be a detractor but no more. You can't help but be impressed by the way Clarke has taken to his job.

    The Aussie team was hopeless ... but under his leadership they are once again starting to show glimpses of its former greatness.

  • AJ_Tiger86 on January 6, 2012, 7:19 GMT

    Another poor article by Daniel Brettig.

  • okadba on January 6, 2012, 5:58 GMT

    Aussie bowlers were very good compared to Indias lack of discipline or control. But so much credit for Clarke seems hoopla. There was lot of grit by clarke and no teeth from the hapless Indian captain and bowlers. So much hoopla about "for the team", seems funny he wanted to become Aussie captain (it was his to lose) and hence gave up IPL. Recently he is more suspect and outright not respected among all, so he bargains by declaring early and becoming a hero. It was just pure calculation and took what benefits him most, I don't see how is great or such bs. Amusing at the least how people can be easily fluffed or rather most of the people wanted a nice story to talk about.

  • mixters on January 6, 2012, 4:28 GMT

    @ Rajasekaran Ramachandran

    So true It might make him feel good but a pole at the game would have seen only the Indian supporters thinking it was the right thing to do

  • harry93 on January 6, 2012, 0:52 GMT

    @rofl - he makes runs overseas too, unlike the Indians

  • Meety on January 6, 2012, 0:23 GMT

    @rofl - valid question IF it weren't for his 150 against the Saffas recently or for that matter his ton against NZ on a green Gabba pitch!

  • mrwaka on January 6, 2012, 0:06 GMT

    I have to admit that I was very critical of Clark before he took over the captaincy of Australia but I am also willing to admit that I was wrong: As a South-African supporter I am happy about the way things are panning out, especially with Clark as captain. this is going to keep test cricket strong for the time being.

  • Talubar on January 6, 2012, 0:00 GMT

    Clarke was lucky he declared when he did, he avoided India's secret weapon, the third new ball.

  • zenboomerang on January 7, 2012, 6:18 GMT

    @andrew-schulz... Agree... Both Ponting & Clarke came in when conditions still favoured the bowlers & managed to hang around until stumps... The 4th sessions still looked good for the bowlers until late when it settled down by lunch... Cannot blame the pitch on why India didn't get 600+ to draw the match.. Anyway, Clarke created his own history by becoming the 1st captain to reach 300+ not out / declare / & win the match... Now that is a great achievement...

  • Meety on January 7, 2012, 3:49 GMT

    @Boollins - I agree that I'd love to see Pup @ #3, but statistically he hasn't performed well outside of #5. I think #5 is good in that if we bat well he comes in against the spinners, if we are in trouble, he counter punches well. Would like Watto fit @ #6! @Talubar- ouch! Very funny!

  • handyandy on January 6, 2012, 12:44 GMT

    I used to be a detractor but no more. You can't help but be impressed by the way Clarke has taken to his job.

    The Aussie team was hopeless ... but under his leadership they are once again starting to show glimpses of its former greatness.

  • AJ_Tiger86 on January 6, 2012, 7:19 GMT

    Another poor article by Daniel Brettig.

  • okadba on January 6, 2012, 5:58 GMT

    Aussie bowlers were very good compared to Indias lack of discipline or control. But so much credit for Clarke seems hoopla. There was lot of grit by clarke and no teeth from the hapless Indian captain and bowlers. So much hoopla about "for the team", seems funny he wanted to become Aussie captain (it was his to lose) and hence gave up IPL. Recently he is more suspect and outright not respected among all, so he bargains by declaring early and becoming a hero. It was just pure calculation and took what benefits him most, I don't see how is great or such bs. Amusing at the least how people can be easily fluffed or rather most of the people wanted a nice story to talk about.

  • mixters on January 6, 2012, 4:28 GMT

    @ Rajasekaran Ramachandran

    So true It might make him feel good but a pole at the game would have seen only the Indian supporters thinking it was the right thing to do

  • harry93 on January 6, 2012, 0:52 GMT

    @rofl - he makes runs overseas too, unlike the Indians

  • Meety on January 6, 2012, 0:23 GMT

    @rofl - valid question IF it weren't for his 150 against the Saffas recently or for that matter his ton against NZ on a green Gabba pitch!

  • mrwaka on January 6, 2012, 0:06 GMT

    I have to admit that I was very critical of Clark before he took over the captaincy of Australia but I am also willing to admit that I was wrong: As a South-African supporter I am happy about the way things are panning out, especially with Clark as captain. this is going to keep test cricket strong for the time being.

  • Talubar on January 6, 2012, 0:00 GMT

    Clarke was lucky he declared when he did, he avoided India's secret weapon, the third new ball.

  • Naikan on January 5, 2012, 22:40 GMT

    It looks like rejuvenation of the Australian batting but I feel fans are reading too much into it. Of all the bowling combinations amongst the test playing countries - the Indian bowling is surely in the bottom rung. While they may be capable of momentary flashes of good performance - they hardly combine well enough to bowl out 20 wickets in a test match in recent times. Cricketing weaknesses get exposed in a test match and that is what has happened. I do not see India managing to stay in the top 3 test teams in the coming months at this rate. Of course, even so a batsman needs to know to take advantage of such a situation and which Aussie batsmen managed to do very well. So congrats to all of them for that. But it will not be the same when they face bowling from SA / England or Pakistan. SO they do need to work at it still.

  • andrew-schulz on January 5, 2012, 22:13 GMT

    Ray 24, India will struggle to play out tomorrow (today now). With the form of the next two in, Laxman and Kohli, I don't think they can. Dear Oh dear, rofl. The guy came in at 3 for 37 chasing 191 in monstrously helpful seaming conditions. What game are you watching? It's a bit hard to call him a flat track bully when he recently scored 151 on a track where one side was bowled out for 86 and the other for 47. And again, this track didn't look so flat whn India went out to bat in their second innings. O for a keeper and a bit of luck and they'd be six down already. We'll see how flat it looks by the end of today.

  • TamilIndian on January 5, 2012, 20:47 GMT

    I think he should have gone for the Lara record... Anyway as SMG has rightly said, if you want to come into form play against India. This is what as Indian fans we always thought!

  • on January 5, 2012, 16:18 GMT

    fine innings from Aussie India should learn to play as a team and not think of themselves as Greats of the game.

  • Ian_Mac on January 5, 2012, 15:38 GMT

    Congrats Captain MJ Clarke

  • ultimatewarrior on January 5, 2012, 14:52 GMT

    He actually just saved a new ball :) by declaring on time...

  • Beertjie on January 5, 2012, 14:31 GMT

    Great achievement by the much maligned Pup. Let me apologise to him as well as take back my writing off of Punter & Huss. May they still be playing on home soil when the Poms are here again. Better still may they occasionally provide these kinds of innings flat track or not.

  • Boollins on January 5, 2012, 13:36 GMT

    Clarke should have the respect of true cricket fans by now. The Indian attack is by no means weak, and both Ishant and Zaheer had their moments yesterday and today. Yet even judged by the comments I've heard today and read here he is still being underrated. His captaincy is attractive and he has a fantastic intuitive feel for the game (demonstrated in particular by his willingness to attack through snappy bowling changes and aggressive field placings). His batting is a joy to watch and I suspect we'll see a number of influential innings of this nature in the next few years. I would dearly love him to bat at first drop though when Watson returns, with Watson at 5. Am of the strong view that in test cricket the best batsman should bat at 3...

  • annys on January 5, 2012, 13:15 GMT

    Indian bowling is really poor so scoring 300 against them is not great , clarke scored a single fifty in last ashes, now that was a good attack :)

  • indianpunter on January 5, 2012, 13:06 GMT

    I hope Indian fans will be gracious and give credit where it is due ( to Clarke, ie). After Sydneygate 2008, Clarke was probably the most hated Australian cricketer in the Indian sub continent, but over the past few years he has matured into a thinking, inclusive player, individual and captain. It was a supreme act of selflessness to declare when he was within a few runs of the Don's record and no one would have faulted him if he went for the 400. Clarke has made test cricket his (and Australia's) priority and it will definitely reap benefits in the next few yrs. @RandyOz, perspective is not your forte, mate. But you have a point. I remember only too well the needless brouhaha caused when Dravid declared the innings when Tendulkar was on 194 . Bravo, Pup! ( from an Indian fan )

  • Major_Hammad on January 5, 2012, 12:45 GMT

    Great and Superb Tripple Hundred by Clarke. Also Excellent batting by Hussey and Ponting, congratulation to all.

  • on January 5, 2012, 12:04 GMT

    Never been a fan of Michale Clarke, ever since he displaced Ricky Ponting and got Andrew Symonds out of the game's reckoning (both the latter players Indians love to hate- Symmo making amends by joining IPL). But absolutely loved the way he went about this innings, monumental no doubts, but the manner in which he demolished the attack, ran his runs (didnt see him huff or puff, not once) in that mammoth that lasted nearly 2 days was breathtaking. A gem from you Clarkey, hats off! And by declaring before erasing a couple of other Australian records, you did show you put the team above all else, that to me is the hallmark of a wonderful sportsperson- something that the Cricketing World will love you for. Cheers

  • moBlue on January 5, 2012, 10:29 GMT

    why is clarke not well respected in OZ?!? he has always been a phenomenal batsman since his debut in india! who cares what he is like off the cricket field?!? in IND, we respect eccentric players like sreesanth when they can beat SA at their own game in SA [both by being as aggressive with their batters as the SA bowlers are with ours, and by bamboozling them with his fast outswingers], for instance, or even someone supposedly haughty like a saurav ganguly or a yuvraj singh when they can play match-winning knocks in the world cup... after all, they were hired by the cricket boards to do their cricket thing well, not to win a popularity contest... so why no respect?

  • big_al_81 on January 5, 2012, 10:27 GMT

    @ rofl. I think you are perfectly happy to rain on this parade. The problem with what you say is that Australia have won series in India and India have not won any series in Australia so to suggest Clarke (of all people! a terrific player of spin in all conditions) is only good on one surface is just demonstrably false. I don't think anyone would say that the individual players for India are all flat track bullies - Tendulkar and Dravid have great records in many places, Khan is class when fit, rather it's the team performance that gives the impression that they only ever truly feel 'at home' when they are literally at home (by which I mean the whole subcontinent, however history has geographically divided it!)

  • GoCho on January 5, 2012, 10:25 GMT

    Well played pup. Though the real test is when they tour England next year. By the way the quickest way to realise when India are under the mat is to look at the comments section in cricinfo. At the beginning of the series every post had about a hundred comments. You hardly see a dozen now.

  • Beazle on January 5, 2012, 10:20 GMT

    Complete clash of cultural differences. Clarke puts the team first whereas players like Tendulkar are more obsessed with personal glory.

  • on January 5, 2012, 10:00 GMT

    I wish the Indian batsmen give the writer an opportunity to write an article like this on their effort

  • RoJayao on January 5, 2012, 9:56 GMT

    Well done Pup, a truly great achievement and as unselfish a decision as you will ever see in cricket. The only problem I have is that if you'd gone on and beaten Lara's high score, we might have seen Brian make a stunning comeback to test cricket to reclaim what motivated him most of all! Oh well, won't happen now!

  • JackJak on January 5, 2012, 9:51 GMT

    India is the most marketed and hyped up team in cricket but certainly nowhere near the best. The best teams are England Australia Pakistan and South Africa...the rest come next.

  • JackJak on January 5, 2012, 9:49 GMT

    @rofl this pitch does look like a dead pitch batting beauty but still a shade better than some of the dead pitches in India.So that way a triple century cannot be as difficult than say doing it on a track with more in it for bowlers. The difference between India and Australia...is we are co crazy about records ..people like tendulkar, Dravid and a few others only think of the records and statistics and obviously if you play endlessly more and more records are going to follow. we lost in england 4-0 with these so called greats and now here too we will lost 4-0 and still these guys dont retire. If we had lost with a young talented side it would have left a much better taste in the mouth and certainly a better sight for the eyes. and the way these commentators go on tom tomming about Gambir is sickening. When he doesnt perform when the ball is moving around..thats reality of his talent and not when its so easy to bat on. Indian's should stop fooling the cricket world.Nobodt buys it!

  • mangocube6 on January 5, 2012, 9:37 GMT

    Great dig but premature declaration... reverse modesty in play. With such a flat track and the SCG wicket often breaking up on the 5th day, they should have batted on for another 100 quick runs and sent India in for the last session having wearied further in the field. If anyone can bat it out on a flat track its Tendulker. Australia will still probably win but Clarke's declaration wasn't as selfless as it appears.

  • Cricket.Nellore on January 5, 2012, 9:18 GMT

    People & i feel its a Mad decision to declare but i realise that its not indian team which focuses on records like 200 in odi, 400 in tests, 100th 100, so on. Whats the point when you are not a winner of the game? btw, i am an INDIAN.

  • atrivedi101 on January 5, 2012, 9:17 GMT

    Of course Sachin will never reach this point, but if he ever did and the captain declared, all hell would have broken loose on him for not letting him go for the record. We Indians cannot fathom why Clarke did not go for Lara's record. You hardly need 3 sessions to bowl India out. You have 2 plus days left still!

  • big_al_81 on January 5, 2012, 9:11 GMT

    What an innings from a captain, both in the sense of it's size but also in putting the team first. Yes there's a bit of disappointment fom a stats point of view that we won't know if he might have made it even bigger but I think this is what separates the top teams who go all out for the team goal of Test wins from others that are happy to go for records and jeopardise the win. Other teams and us fans would do well to look and learn from a country that has made a habit of winning despite its small population.

  • Ray24 on January 5, 2012, 8:59 GMT

    Excellent innings. Wish Haddin had held on to Gambhir's edge and India would have struggled to play out tomorrow. Still 2 days to go - let's see Aus get into an unbeatable position for the series.

  • on January 5, 2012, 8:58 GMT

    As an outsider i have always enjoyed the way aussie way of cricket. Last time i was very annoyd when he claimed a controversial catch of ganguly at this very same venue. But it seems he has come of age. Today with his monumental effort he has erased those menmories & has earned respect of many. The way he kept running hard was amazing & heartening. that's what u call passion & determination. hats off clarke !

  • Idealdost on January 5, 2012, 8:53 GMT

    Well done Clarke, but you should be go for break Lara record..

  • rofl on January 5, 2012, 8:44 GMT

    Clarke,Ponting and Hussey did great yesterday and today. Especially Clarke. So hats off to them.

    I dont want to rain on anybody's parade here, just wanted to add that, if any of Indian batsemen did the same on Indian pitches that they are accustomed to, then everybody would be commenting how Indian batsmen are flat track bullies etc etc ..

    Seeing Clarke's outstanding batting in his home condition on what appears to be a flat track with nothing much for bowlers(atleast Indians feel that way) .. I wonder if Clarke and co will be christened flat track bullies as well..

  • rahulcricket007 on January 5, 2012, 8:42 GMT

    @shawn coolie . indian fans are busy in their own work now . they don't want to see this dead series . congratulations for winnng 4-0 .

  • on January 5, 2012, 8:40 GMT

    As an outsider i have always enjoyed the way aussie way of cricket. Last time i was very annoyd when he claimed a controversial catch of ganguly at this very same venue. But it seems he has come of age. Today with his monumental effort he has erased those menmories & has earned respect of many. The way he kept running hard was amazing & heartening. that's what u call passion & determination. hats off clarke !

  • Farce-Follower on January 5, 2012, 8:39 GMT

    Take a bow, Clarke...selfless commitment to a cause and not to a mere statistic.

  • on January 5, 2012, 8:32 GMT

    Indian fan, Great chanceless innings , but he should hav gone for the record 400, he can definetely do it before tea or even the 20 overs left in the day

    GREAT INNINGS , MAD DECISION ,

  • RandyOZ on January 5, 2012, 8:05 GMT

    Brilliant innings Clarkey, I have been one of your harshest critics and I enjoy seeing you prove me wrong. Just please don't follow it up with another single digit score!!

  • on January 5, 2012, 8:00 GMT

    well done clarke,hey where all the indian coments lol

  • shaen on January 5, 2012, 7:45 GMT

    A full and fitting description of Clarkes triumph Mr Brettig. Very good writing. Thank you.

  • ashfaqshafi on January 5, 2012, 7:44 GMT

    It was good to see that Clark preferred team over his personal record.That gesture has placed him high among the list of great sportsmen

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • ashfaqshafi on January 5, 2012, 7:44 GMT

    It was good to see that Clark preferred team over his personal record.That gesture has placed him high among the list of great sportsmen

  • shaen on January 5, 2012, 7:45 GMT

    A full and fitting description of Clarkes triumph Mr Brettig. Very good writing. Thank you.

  • on January 5, 2012, 8:00 GMT

    well done clarke,hey where all the indian coments lol

  • RandyOZ on January 5, 2012, 8:05 GMT

    Brilliant innings Clarkey, I have been one of your harshest critics and I enjoy seeing you prove me wrong. Just please don't follow it up with another single digit score!!

  • on January 5, 2012, 8:32 GMT

    Indian fan, Great chanceless innings , but he should hav gone for the record 400, he can definetely do it before tea or even the 20 overs left in the day

    GREAT INNINGS , MAD DECISION ,

  • Farce-Follower on January 5, 2012, 8:39 GMT

    Take a bow, Clarke...selfless commitment to a cause and not to a mere statistic.

  • on January 5, 2012, 8:40 GMT

    As an outsider i have always enjoyed the way aussie way of cricket. Last time i was very annoyd when he claimed a controversial catch of ganguly at this very same venue. But it seems he has come of age. Today with his monumental effort he has erased those menmories & has earned respect of many. The way he kept running hard was amazing & heartening. that's what u call passion & determination. hats off clarke !

  • rahulcricket007 on January 5, 2012, 8:42 GMT

    @shawn coolie . indian fans are busy in their own work now . they don't want to see this dead series . congratulations for winnng 4-0 .

  • rofl on January 5, 2012, 8:44 GMT

    Clarke,Ponting and Hussey did great yesterday and today. Especially Clarke. So hats off to them.

    I dont want to rain on anybody's parade here, just wanted to add that, if any of Indian batsemen did the same on Indian pitches that they are accustomed to, then everybody would be commenting how Indian batsmen are flat track bullies etc etc ..

    Seeing Clarke's outstanding batting in his home condition on what appears to be a flat track with nothing much for bowlers(atleast Indians feel that way) .. I wonder if Clarke and co will be christened flat track bullies as well..

  • Idealdost on January 5, 2012, 8:53 GMT

    Well done Clarke, but you should be go for break Lara record..