Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Hobart, 5th day December 18, 2012

The captain and the spearhead

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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