Australia v India, 1st Test, Melbourne, 2nd day December 27, 2007

Clark silences the doubters



Stuart Clark: "What was in our favour was the ball scuffed up nicely and we got some reverse-swing, which made it easier to bowl" © Getty Images

Stuart Clark arrived at the MCG expecting nothing from the pitch, but with the assistance of reverse-swing he was able to overcome his pessimism and seriously damage India. The surface did not inspire him during a Pura Cup match for New South Wales at the start of the month - it still doesn't - and he requested series-opening matches in conditions that would give the home side an advantage, such as Brisbane and Perth.

When Clark operates like he did on day two, there is no need for Australia to have any extra benefits. In a pace attack that complemented each other, restricting runs without negating the aggression, Clark caused the most problems, curling the ball to capture four of India's most wanted while giving up only 28 from 15 overs.

Despite his success, his view of the pitch remained. "Nothing has changed," he said. "If you bowl badly you can go for plenty of runs, but it's flat, low and slow. What was in our favour was the ball scuffed up nicely and we got some reverse-swing, which made it easier to bowl."

His spell either side of tea was the most destructive as he snuffed out India's recovery by removing Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni in 12 balls. Tendulkar had crafted a delightful 62 when he tried to force Clark through the offside to a ball that was too close to his body and ended up under-edging on to the stumps. It came off the pitch slower than Tendulkar expected, but Clark had cramped him and relieved Australia's concern over his 65-run partnership with Sourav Ganguly.

Yuvraj was given out wafting outside the off stump from the final ball before tea, a decision which convinced the Australians but not the batsman, and two deliveries after the break the threat of Dhoni was extinguished when an inswinger caught him in front. In the first session Rahul Dravid needed serious effort to remove after three false alarms, including a dropped catch, a take off a no-ball and a huge lbw appeal, but Clark finally raised Billy Bowden's finger with an off-cutter that stayed low and struck the pad.

Clark had a relatively quiet series against Sri Lanka, taking seven wickets in the two Tests, and was cut from the one-day squad to face New Zealand. "It was nice to get out there today, get a few wickets and make some of the doubters who thought I shouldn't be in the team to think otherwise," he said. He also provided some more concerns for India.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo