Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Hobart, 5th day

The captain and the spearhead

Daniel Brettig at Bellerive Oval

December 18, 2012

Comments: 26 | Text size: A | A

In the hour after Australia's first home Test win of the summer, it was entirely fitting that the captain Michael Clarke found himself sitting next to the man of the match Peter Siddle. Clarke's prolific batting and flair-filled captaincy has been critical to the development of a team far better than the one that was trounced by England in 2010-11, but so too has Siddle's bowling, which in the past 15 months has added patience and wit to physical endurance and old-fashioned aggression. His place as Australia's spearhead is as undisputed as Clarke's vitality as leader.

Clarke's chances of finding the 55 runs he needs to claim Ricky Ponting's Australian record for most runs in a calendar year now hinge on whether or not his strained hamstring will recover in time for Boxing Day, but he said his personal success was now closely intertwined with that of his team.

"It is nice, there's no doubt about it to be scoring runs and to be leading from the front as captain of the team," Clarke said. "But I've said for a while I'll take no runs if we keep playing the way we're playing and we keep having success like we did through this Test match. That's as pleased as you can be as a captain.

"I'd like to say there's an easy way but there's not. There's been a lot of hard work. It's taken a lot of years for me to learn my game, and there are still areas of my game that need to continue to improve.

"A bit of old advice from my father, he's been doing a lot of my one-on-one batting stuff over the last couple of years that's been great, but I think the one thing he continues to push with me is to keep that hunger. As a kid he always said make sure you're hungry to score runs, and that's the thing I've tried to do this summer. It's always hard to get in, you can get out early, but once I've got in and got a start, I've tried to be as hungry as I can to go in and get big scores."

That hunger was evident again on the fourth day, when Clarke crafted a wonderfully rapid innings to ensure Australia could set their target in a timely manner. His knack for not only scoring vital runs, but scoring them in a manner entirely appropriate to the match situation, is perhaps unrivalled around the world.

"If you look at since he's become captain, the way he's played and performed, you always want your leader to stand up and be the one who leads from the front, and he's been phenomenal at that," Siddle said of Clarke. "He's been outstanding, it makes us better players, he's been producing targets we can defend, and given us time to do our work.

"That makes it a lot easier, and yesterday it showed. On a wicket that was hard to score on, that he went about it his way and got us into a position that we could set a nice target, and go out there and do our business."

As for Siddle, his lift in consistency and reliability since last year's Sri Lanka tour has allowed Clarke to turn to him in most circumstances, and there was no bowler more dearly missed during the chaos of the second afternoon against South Africa in Perth, when inspiration and direction eluded Australia for a critical two hours.

"The man beside me continues to lead our attack," Clarke said. "I think he has done for a while now, he's loved that opportunity to be our No. 1 strike bowler, he really looks forward to the pressure situation, doesn't care if he opens the bowling or bowls first change, it's about helping the team have success. If everyone's got the heart he has, we'll definitely get back to being the No. 1 Test team in the world."

Siddle's heart and skill, and Clarke's runs. Australia would be lost without them.

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

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Posted by hris on (December 20, 2012, 3:09 GMT)

@Front-Foot-Lunge -- that doesnt make sense. You could say that about everyplayer who doesn't open. SO by that openers are the best players in the world. Everyone else is just hiding including Bradman, Sachin, Viv, Kallis, Inzamam, Ponting or Pietersen and many more. Right?

Posted by Peterincanada on (December 19, 2012, 18:05 GMT)

@swauzzie- They would probably say Bradman was a coward. After all he hid first behind Ponsford and Woodfull and later behind Barnes and Morris. By their logic every great batsmanwho didn't open was/is a coward.

Posted by MaruthuDelft on (December 19, 2012, 15:39 GMT)

It is difficult to choose between Cook and Clerke. Clerke scores a lot of runs at a great rate and seems to be successfully in building up Australia. However his runs are not as worthy as the runs by Cook in the last Ashes tour and this Indian tour. Cook caused England beat Australia in Australia with 3 massive centuries. He again caused England beat India in India again with 3 massive centuries.

Posted by swauzzie on (December 19, 2012, 14:44 GMT)

@Soso_killer Don't know where your comments are coming from there m8,(had nothing 2 do with my comments?) but I can answer anyhow. The Saffers lost around 11 or 12 of the 15 days of cricket they played down under. Never were they really on top bar 2 or max 3 days.They were totally dominated - & them being the No1 test team in the world. When they were in trouble did the thought of actually trying to WIN the test cross their minds? Nope, not even once. That's the big difference. Fans would rather see a team go out there with the INTENT of winning (& perhaps failing whilst doing so) instead of woopee goin for a draw! Mark my words, with this kinda mindset they will lose their ranking.

Posted by Soso_killer on (December 19, 2012, 13:45 GMT)

Swauzie the saffers have not lost a test match in 2012 despite playing the vast majority away from home. Not only that Sir but they have lost just 1 series in 6 years, and they still get criticised? #RIDICULOUS

Posted by swauzzie on (December 19, 2012, 13:24 GMT)

@Front-Foot-Lunge & RednWhiteArmy. "Hiding down the order"? Sounds like you're a little jealous of our Clarkey! Sounds like the teams that you support (whoever they may be) don't have a Clarke & you're havin a bit of a whinge because of it. Grow up would ya? Some batsmen are meant to bat lower down the order. Was Border hiding? Was Steve Waugh hiding? Playin peek a boo mayby. Ya tossers. He bats where he needs to bat for his team. He's a TEAM PLAYER. Always does whats best for his team & not himself. Whats best is that he IS stability in the middle order & wins games for his country at no 5. Perhaps you've actually never seen him play a game & you're just regurgitating others comments?

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (December 19, 2012, 12:29 GMT)

For the best test opener and captain in the world, go watch some videos (if you missed it) of Alistair Cook. He doesn't hide down the order. He scpres runs on minefields. Compare a strong captain to Clarke weak 'hide behind the sofa' captain. No contest, as even Aussie fans will tell you.

Posted by potofazherbaizan on (December 19, 2012, 8:50 GMT)

All throughout the Aus vs SA series, Australia were the overriding team. Collectively, even though the results don't say, Aus were a better team. It's a shame that they didn't get the result they deserved. The Sri Lankan gave an expected result, but after watching the first two sessions, I was seriously seeing a Adelaide situation. Nathan Lyon should've stepped up and Watson just needs to get his game right. Australia probably the #2 team right now.

Posted by jimbond on (December 19, 2012, 6:08 GMT)

Australia is a side under formation, but still clearly the No. 2 side in the world. Players who fulfil a few more roles need to turn up for it to become the No. 1 side, but surely that process has been set in motion. This shows that with a good first class structure, a team can never fall below a certain level.

Hope Clarke is able to lead the team to greater things in the next few years.

Posted by Biggus on (December 19, 2012, 5:16 GMT)

@landl47-Fair comment. I don't think we''ll be able to beat you in England yet but I hold out some faint hope that we'll stand a chance at home. On paper though your's is a far more solid outfit.

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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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