Australia v South Africa, 1st Test, Brisbane, 5th day November 13, 2012

Clarke's positivity rubs off on Australia

Michael Clarke has instilled into his own side that it is possible to win from any situation. The attacking mindset was personified by James Pattinson's fiery spell, for example

Over the past five days at the Gabba, Australia and South Africa played out the first draw between the sides in their past 14 Tests. The rain on the second day didn't prevent Michael Clarke from trying to fashion a route to victory. And in a four-day game on one of the flattest, slowest Australian pitches in recent years, that his men went so close to achieving that goal was a remarkable effort.

It also said much about the way the Australians approach the game under Clarke's leadership. Though he was never captain of Australia's Test team, Shane Warne always believed Australia could win, from virtually any position. Clarke admires Warne's mindset and has instilled it into his own side. Since he took over as full-time captain, the only match Australia have drawn that was not rain-affected was the game that gave Australia a series victory in Colombo last year. They have lost only two Tests, and won nine.

After the first day, which brought only two wickets, the Australians not only lifted, they showed an intent that the South African camp seemed to lack. Ed Cowan played his strokes and with Clarke rebuilt from a perilous 3 for 40, and when their monster partnership was broken, Michael Hussey ensured the tempo did not slip. From a position of South African dominance, the match turned firmly in Australia's favour.

While he was compiling his third double-century this year, Clarke's mind was active. How can we win this? Do we declare behind and challenge Graeme Smith to set us a target? Should we push on, build a lead and put South Africa's batsmen under pressure? The runs came so quickly that Clarke decided on the latter approach, giving his bowlers most of the final day to do their work. They claimed five wickets, but ultimately time beat them.

"I thought it was going to be tough if we had to chase 250 or 280 on that wicket on the last day," Clarke said. "I thought our best chance of winning, especially the way Michael Hussey was playing and scoring quite quickly last night, was to get a lead, come out this morning and be as positive as we could, and then give ourselves enough time in the game to take nine wickets. Unfortunately we didn't have enough time.

"The boys deserve a lot of credit for their attitudes more than anything else. Our intent was the way it needs to be when you're playing against such a good team. I think the way Ed Cowan and Michael Hussey batted, they certainly showed that intent and our attitude was spot on today with the ball. We were quite aggressive with our approach ... We can certainly use the momentum that we take from this game and hopefully take it into Adelaide."

Australia's attacking mindset was personified by James Pattinson on the final day. In a spell full of venom and verbal aggression, Pattinson was infuriated by Smith pulling away as a bird flew across the pitch with Pattinson in his delivery stride. Pattinson told Smith what he thought in no uncertain terms, and sent down a searing bouncer next ball, and it was the start of short but fiery contest between the two men.

It didn't take Pattinson long to have his man. Coming around the wicket, he enticed a loose shot from Smith, whose edge flew to gully. A pumped-up Pattinson gave Smith a send-off of sorts, but Clarke had no problem with the aggression showed by his young fast bowler. Pattinson collected five wickets for the match, the most by any Australian bowler, and he is rapidly making himself the spearhead of Australia's attack.

"Patto knows the rules," Clarke said. "Like all the bowlers, I think the aggression, the intent is a big part of the way we play our best cricket. I certainly don't want to stop that. But we understand there's a line and you can go to the line but you can't overstep it. Simple as that.

"Patto's enjoying being out there and playing, being on the park. I've said for a while we've got plenty of talent, it's now about performance with the ball. It's about guys being fit and firing at the right time. This is a great test for our quicks. We're playing against a very good batting team, as we did against India last summer. It's been a good start for us, especially after day one."

Day one certainly wasn't a good start for the Australians. But there is no question they will fly out of Brisbane with more reasons for positivity than their rivals. And as Clarke knows, positive thinking is half the battle.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Peter on November 15, 2012, 2:42 GMT

    One unusual thing that hasn't been said yet about Clarke as a leader is the way the team now seems to actually have fun while they play - I think I even saw Ricky laugh! I can remember watching during Chappell/AB times when not a smile all day. Everyone either too cool or terrified. Clarke seems to have brought in idea of time of my life-may as well try to enjoy - good for young kids to see. Maybe thats why he didnt squeeze out the last few overs. Harks of Keith Miller and the WW2 Messerschmitt story. I know - test is when they lose a few and the shock horror media get involved.

  • Patrick on November 14, 2012, 8:29 GMT

    @Aussassinator, intriguing insights, Harmy was a danger alright, occasionally to opposition batsmen even. Interested in whom you think out there actually plays chin music off a good length well??? Yet to see anyone I could say was comfortable with the 'brute' ball off a length since the Great AB. In all fairness to Harmy he was unplayable on his day, Ambrose like, pity those days were too few, the best and worst of fast bowling was always a possibility.

  • Andrew on November 14, 2012, 6:18 GMT

    @dunger.bob on (November 14 2012, 02:34 AM GMT) - I think it was also he was "ordained" by Steve Waugh as a future Ozzy captain before he'd even racked up a year of FC cricket. Also, he got into the Oz team fairly quickly - that he said he nailed a ton on debut!

  • Ross on November 14, 2012, 3:24 GMT

    @Aussasinator - that certainly is a story, mostly fictional however I'm afraid. By all means the saffa bowlers should talk to Flintoff - if they want to learn how to lose 5-nil that is. Even in the last ashes series - the one where 'England' actually played better than Australia - Oz won the game on the fastest pitch by an innings. Doesn't exactly point to a weakness against fast bowling. If anything, Oz have proven vulnerable to medium paced swing and have eaten fast bowlers not of the highest class such as Harmison for breakfast.

  • rob on November 14, 2012, 2:34 GMT

    I agree with Captain_Oblivious. I think half the problem was due to Clarke being such a contradictory sort of person. He looks, speaks and acts like a blue blood from Rose Bay but he is actually a product of the rough and tough Western suburbs. He generally has a smile on his face and seems benign, but those in the know say that he rules that dressing room with an iron fist (just ask Simon Katich, he might have some stories to tell). He looks like a vain, dumb clotheshorse but has a very astute cricket brain and isn't afraid to use it. I could go on and on, but hopefully you get the idea. Traditionally Aussie captains haven't been what you would call "complicated". There are a few exceptions (Mark Taylor, Richie Benaud, maybe Greg Chappell) but generally they have been more in the Steve Waugh, Allan border, Ian Chappell mould.

  • Gez on November 14, 2012, 0:53 GMT

    It's amazing how much more popular Michael Clarke has become over the last 12 months in Australia. He was very unfairly ostrasised by a conservative, 1950's style cricket community that prefers 'blokey' guys over well-groomed, metrosexuals. I always liked Clarke because of the way he plays the game, but even I didn't think in my wildest dreams he'd be this successful as a batsman and captain. I always thought Australia needed a Border-like character to lead the team through these tough times, but he's well and truly exceeded expectations with what is still a fairly average group of players IMO. Look, South Africa may still win this series given they have a far better team on paper, but Clarke is a true leader of men.

  • Chris on November 13, 2012, 22:03 GMT

    Michael Clarke is the ultimate team player who values runs that help his team. I thought it was classic the way he didn't even realise he'd brought up his 250 initially, because he was totally focussed on the team position and not on his own score.

    A telling statistic is that his 100 came from 210 balls, and from then on he scored 159 from 188 balls. He knew they had to be aggressive to set up a match and really pushed it. In contrast, South Africa at no point in their first innings ever accelerated their scoring rate. Kallis 100 from 168 balls, then scored a further 47 from 106 balls. So while he actually reached his hundred quicker (while Clarke was more circumspect coming from a position of 3/40) he actually scored slower after reaching his hundred at a time when South Africa had to be trying for some quick runs.

  • Subba on November 13, 2012, 20:39 GMT

    i distinctly remember how Steve Harmison had simply destroyed Clarke during one of the Ashes in the course of an over when Clarke could not even duck or fend his rising deliveries properly. They all rose from the good length spot and on the stump line. That is also the storyof the Pontings, Husseys and warners. Its just that the bowlers have to adopt that aggressive line and not bowl to the strengths of the Aussie batsmen.Ponting of course has been sorted out long ago but if SA has to win this time, they need aggression against warner, Clarke and Hussey.They are all weak against fast, into-the- body line of bowling. A chat with Flintoff or Shoab Akhthar will help, though Steyn and Morkel already know it. Just that they are not implementing the aggression.

  • Kiran on November 13, 2012, 19:08 GMT

    Michael Clarke's batting and captaincywere magnificent and of the highest class. The only thing that surprised me was, why did Clarke call off the match with some 10 overs still to be played ? He should have gone for the jugular, brought in Siddle and Pattinson instead of having Quiney bowl the last few overs. He should have gone for the kill, suffocated the South Africans and made life just that much more miserable for them, not only to punch a few more holes in their batting but also create a psychological stranglehold over them before the second Test. And this coming from a person i.e. me who never supports Australia !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Bash on November 13, 2012, 17:53 GMT

    I always believed a loss is not a bad thing while trying to win. Test cricket badly need it. I like Clarke as he always try to win. Remember, Dhoni did not try to win against Windies when the demand was 90 runs in 50 overs in a Twenty20 time.

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