Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 1st day November 22, 2012

Clarke prospers with attacking intent


As the 16,512 spectators at Adelaide Oval rose to honour Michael Clarke at the end of the day he became the first man in Test history to pass 200 four times in a year, one broadcast observer marvelled at the captain's sense of timing, as records and milestones tumble to his bat at all the right moments. "It's almost like he's a news editor," he gasped.

This was indeed another note-perfect occasion for Clarke, a man and a cricketer growing in stature among the game's greats with every day at the batting crease. He reached two major marks with the sort of timing once the exclusive preserve of his friend and mentor Shane Warne, smashing Morne Morkel for five boundaries in an over to go to 150, then reaching a double-hundred the ball before Michael Hussey passed his own century, cause for hugs and photos all round.

But there is substance, thought and courage too behind a face at ease with the cameras. As in Brisbane, Clarke was rewarded for a tremendous attacking intent from a position of some uncertainty, this time 3 for 55, but here in Adelaide the innings had the added advantage of taking place on the first day to push Australia into a position in which they already appear the only side capable of victory.

Clarke has not yet had the time or the inclination to ponder on the wider context of what he achieved on Thursday, or this year, but he is certain that the greatest source of his success is an aggressive attitude. In this he resembles the famed remark of the French General Ferdinand Foch who offered the following thought on his battlefield situation: "My centre is giving way, my right is retreating, situation excellent, I will attack." Having twice had Australia three down for not many, South Africa have twice been turned back with impressive force.

"Through my career that's probably the only way I've had success, when you look at the innings I've made big scores, it's exactly that - the counter-attack, being positive, playing my natural game," Clarke said. "And there's risk there. As Graeme [Smith] and AB [de Villiers] reminded me a lot of times today I had a lot of arse, there's no doubt about that but you need it in this game. I remember playing England through the Australian summer a couple of years ago and I couldn't make a run, so when you're scoring runs you want to cash in.

"It's really nice to be making runs, and the down side to this great game is when you're not, you find it really hard to find your next run, and that happens through your career. That's happened a lot for me, and I've got dropped, and when I came back from getting dropped I said I want to make the most of the good days and that's what I feel like I'm doing."

Apart from culture, intent is one of the buzz words for Australia's cricketers these days. Clarke and David Warner resolved not to waste time trying to survive on an Adelaide pitch that offered true bounce and comfortable pace. Their bravery delighted the coach Mickey Arthur just as much as the assembled crowd. "The one thing Davey and I spoke about during the week was our intent, the way I tried to play in Brisbane and the way we were going to try to play today was exactly that, we wanted to be positive," Clarke said. "We both took that approach today, we were going to see the ball and react and not worry too much about the result, if we get a good ball, we get a good ball."

Partnerships such as those with Warner and Hussey have been a critical element of Clarke's success since he became captain. The one major innings in that time that was an entirely solo effort - the 151 against South Africa in Cape Town - was ultimately inconsequential because no one else was able to help Clarke, resulting in a middling team tally around a brilliant individual one.

"A lot of credit needs to go to Huss and Davey as well, the way they played up the other end today made my life and my job a lot easier," Clarke said. "If I didn't score there was no stress. That gets forgotten a lot of the time: how important your partner is when you have success."

Another partnership that has helped Clarke is the one that he has established with his wife Kyly. They married in a lavish but secret ceremony during the winter, and the wry note made by Ed Cowan in Brisbane that Clarke does not have a Test batting average since becoming a husband remains true - he has now scored 483 runs for the series without being dismissed, and he gestured with passion in Mrs Clarke's direction as he strode towards 200.

"I know she's supporting me, that's the type of woman she is," Clarke said. "She's getting into her cricket and it's great she can be here in Adelaide. It's special for everybody [who] has thrown their support behind me, and the people that are close who've been there through good days and bad days, whether that's on the field with cricket or off the field with my personal life and things that have happened through my life, especially with my family. I think when you perform well, my dedication is certainly to my team-mates first and foremost, but also through the people who've stood by me through good and bad days."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • David on November 23, 2012, 14:13 GMT

    @Arrow011 - Currently only one man is in line to score more test centuries than Tendulkar, and that is Kallis. In the match that Sachin scored his 50th - test # 1985 - Kallis was man of the match and scored his 38th test century, also his first double century. Sachin then had 12 more tons than Kallis. Today, 2 years later, Kallis has 44 test centuries. He has scored six in the 13 tests he has played since. At this rate, he will need another 13 to 15 tests to match Sachin. We'll see how his hamstring holds up tomorrow, but the way he batted in Brisbane, he could make it number 45!

  • Chetan on November 23, 2012, 1:18 GMT

    Attacking.. I watched till he bat to hundread..Low full toss high full toss. slow short pitch from SA bowlers ..This guy is lucky... even Indian Ranji player would score 200 plus on this flat track and SA bowling...

  • Raja on November 23, 2012, 0:15 GMT

    Unbelievable batting by Clarke, I am an Indian and never considered Clarke as a batsman - was always too far to think him as Australian Captain...boy...he has changed my whole perception since last one year...sensational batting against South Africa, when he scored against good english attack and tons of runs against India ( though never consider Indian bowling as bowling) to hit against world class SA bowling is simply superb...Just to highlight a point of Clarke batting and agressive captaincy, in the first test match vs SA after 4th day, in press conference when he said we will look for a win - I was like what is he talking...and I already saw what Clarke and Austraila did to South Africa on the 5th day...Great Going Clarke..I wish you and Australia all the best...guess not too far to snatch world number 1 ranking.I guess this time it wont be a see saw battle when it comes to Australia..not far to dominate once again the entire cricketing world not with money (BCCI) but with cricket

  • Dummy4 on November 22, 2012, 23:56 GMT

    Its good that Michael Clarke is batting how he used to bat- attacking strokeplay. He went through a period when he forgot how to hit boundaries..probably not long after he got dropped.

  • Aaquib on November 22, 2012, 22:13 GMT

    Best Test Batsman in the World at the Moment Without a Doubt

  • Dummy4 on November 22, 2012, 21:16 GMT

    Amazing performance that too against a great team!

  • disco on November 22, 2012, 19:07 GMT

    These early losses of wickets and then a fearless recovery, are good preparation for the Ashes because if things do go a bit awry, sometimes that itself can cause more damage. But knowing that they only need to trust themselves fosters the kind of attitude and experience that will be necessary when we visit the old dart.

  • Ragavendran on November 22, 2012, 16:21 GMT

    Excellent performance from Clarke and Australia. Looks like he will reach greater heights than Ricky Ponting as a batsman just like Ponting overtook Steve Waugh.

  • Naresh on November 22, 2012, 14:48 GMT

    MICHAEL CLARKE, KEVIN PEITERSON AND COOK are amongst the best in test cricket at the moment.

  • Bhaskar on November 22, 2012, 13:13 GMT

    Clarke has played like a man on form, hope he is not in the same fashion as Ricky Ponting who from being a good batsman to a great batsman for few years & slid down again. Ponting, Hayden & for a brief period Langer started coming to a sudden burst of form, the first 2 especially looked like overtaking Sachin's 100s in tests but then a big drought hit ponting & he is now eeking runs to stay in the team. Hayden was not a young man so he retired early. Clarke too looks as if like a passing cloud, hope it is not but these things are true. Sachin has always been among runs, only this year he is dull.

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