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Peter English at Perth
December 15, 2006
Stuart Clark has out-bowled Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee throughout the first three Tests and the thought of being the side's leading man seems a slightly uncomfortable one. Australia's two most highly-decorated fast men have made contributions during the series but it has been Clark who has created the extra zip and movement that has caused regular England discomfort.
Three wickets today lifted Clark's tally for the series to 14 and he has quickly grown into an essential member of the side in his third Test campaign. He opened the bowling this morning and again finished with better figures than McGrath and Lee, who each collected two victims. At the end of the day he was even asked if he was now the attack's leader.
"It's nice to bowl behind them," Clark said. "Brett puts the wind up them, Glenn puts it on a length, [the batsmen] are under pressure when I get the ball in my hand. Where I see myself is part of a good bowling line-up."
Andrew Strauss was Clark's first dismissal and while there was doubt over whether he connected with an edge to Adam Gilchrist, there was no question over the bowler's method. Giving Strauss a big gap through cover, Clark allowed an uppish boundary through the empty region and followed up with a slightly shorter and wider delivery that the batsman swung at wildly. Sajid Mahmood also fell to a Gilchrist catch and Steve Harmison's dismissal ended the innings with a 29-run lead for the home side.
The only batsman to get away from Australia was Kevin Pietersen, who faced largely defensive settings with a group of outfielders protecting the ropes. "If you have all the field up it gives Pietersen more chances to score boundaries," Clark said. "There's a fair chance if he plays a big shot he'll get caught because he hits the ball pretty well. It's part of modern-day cricket."
Australia were 1 for 119 at stumps, with Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting both 57 not out, and Hayden left the ground pumping his fist at the dressing-room. "We're in a good position and there's a lot of excitement about getting ourselves into a position to win the Test," Clark said. "If we do win then the Ashes will be part of it, but it's not what we're focussing on."
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