Lazy days gone for hard-working Clarke
As Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting sat together after the first day in Hobart, contemplating their 231-run stand, they looked happier than they have for some time. There was banter, they interrupted each other with witty quips, and they both sat back in their chairs with the satisfied air of men who can look back on their work and be proud of their accomplishments.
Australia's captain and vice-captain have guided the developing side through a successful summer but for each of them, there have been individual hurdles that weren't overcome until today. Ponting has struggled against the short ball and his 137 not out ended an uncharacteristically long period without a century, which stretched back to early in the Ashes tour.
Clarke's problems have included more personal issues - a scathing tabloid newspaper article at the start of the summer called him a tosser and criticised the way he was perceived, and he was unfairly branded as over-rated. On the field, runs didn't flow as freely as they had during his productive Ashes series. For the man who will be Australia's next captain, two fifties early in the season weren't enough of a return to satisfy him and he conceded he had been lazy on several occasions this summer.
"I've played some undisciplined shots, I guess, over the last few games," Clarke said after his unbeaten 111. "I thought I batted pretty well against West Indies. I was a little bit lazy a couple of times there as well. I don't really know. I would say I've been a little bit lazy, but I've been working hard, I've been training hard throughout the summer, so it's good to finally get three figures."
There was no doubt about his work-rate at Bellerive Oval, where overcast conditions, a slowish surface and quality bowling from Pakistan made the first session hard going. Clarke was beaten outside off stump several times and took a little while to get moving but unlike Ponting, who was dropped from his fourth ball, Clarke didn't offer a chance and helped Australia recover from 3 for 71 to 3 for 302 at stumps.
"That's your job when you bat No. 5," Clarke said. "The guys in front of you generally do the hard work and you come in when the ball is pretty old and pretty flat, and cash in. But on days like today there was a little bit in the wicket and I had to work hard early. Any time you make a hundred for your country it's very satisfying."
Although Clarke insists he isn't fazed about staying down the order, he is clearly enjoying the seniority involved with the vice-captaincy. His innings featured typical Clarke footwork against the spinners and his Test average ticked over 50 during the day.
When he reached his hundred he kissed the crest of his helmet, and he later joked that Ponting, who did the same for the first time in his career, "copied me - good boy!" Ponting took the jibe good-naturedly. By stumps, nothing could bother either of them.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo