Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Brisbane, 2nd day November 9, 2007

Middle order runs riot

Clarke's 245-run fourth-wicket partnership with Hussey shut Sri Lanka out before Symonds landed to a home-ground welcome and showed his strength

Michael Clarke was nonchalance personified during his unbeaten 145 (file photo) © Getty Images
In all the analysis about Australia's new components at the top and bottom, a small group of significant contributors were forgotten. The stomach of the side is growing into a unit that is strong enough to digest any standard of bowling and Sri Lanka have been processed without delivering a ball at Adam Gilchrist.

Entering the match, the tourists were unconcerned about the quality of their fast bowlers, but now they have serious troubles with both disciplines after taking only four wickets in five sessions and losing two wickets before stumps. Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke inflicted more run-scoring misery on the visitors, whose decision to bowl first grew worse by the hour, and Andrew Symonds breezed to an unbeaten 53 after arriving at the comfort of 4 for 461.

It was a comprehensive performance from a body that has only formed over the past year. The Hussey-Clarke-Symonds order was used in the third Test of the Ashes series and it will be a crucial and entertaining combination as the team evolves.

Hussey provides the composure and his appetite is the same for every occasion, an essential characteristic for a player who can walk out with the team in danger or comfort. He was called late on day one with Australia 2 for 183 and his efficiency steered them to a formidable total. Next to Clarke and Symonds, Hussey is a mouse, but his record is immense - his average before the match was more than his two team-mates combined - and he left with his sixth century in 17 games.

Dilhara Fernando's dismissal of Hussey was the only one Sri Lanka achieved on the second day, but it was not enough to justify his billing as the team's best fast-bowling option. The strange decision to let Lasith Malinga sit in the stands was compounded during Fernando's lacklustre displays in which he looked short of work after resting from the second tour game. The Sri Lankans were trumpeting Fernando as a world-class speedster before the Test, but he was unable to maintain his line, unlike Chaminda Vaas and Farveez Maharoof.

Michael Hussey: The run-machine maintained his efficiency (file photo) © Getty Images
Sri Lanka quickly turned defensive this morning as they tried to limit the ground stolen by the home team on a pitch that promised collapses and delivered a run spree. Muttiah Muralitharan operated with six men on the legside for long periods, delivering from over and around the wicket, but it could not prevent Hussey and Clarke from escaping.

Off-side rings to the fast bowlers were pierced without concern and Muralitharan was not allowed to settle. Hussey would work him from the crease and Clarke would be alert for an attack, like the one shortly before lunch when he charged consecutive deliveries and launched them straight for a six and a four. Hussey's brilliance is in his compilation; Clarke stirs with his attacking unpredictability.

Luckily for Australia, Clarke has learned the times to run and jog. He faced almost 100 balls before allowing his arms to unfurl when Maharoof was attacked with a series of slashes in the lead-up to his half-century. Clarke accelerated and eased back throughout the rest of his innings - calming down following a streaky post-lunch period was important - and collected his second century in four Tests at the Gabba.

Clarke's 245-run fourth-wicket partnership with Hussey shut Sri Lanka out before Symonds landed to a home-ground welcome and showed his strength. Relief for the visitors came only with Ricky Ponting's declaration at 551. By then the Sri Lankans had experienced the three complementary prongs of a middle order on the move. In Hobart they might encounter Gilchrist as well.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo