England v Australia, 1st Test, Lord's, 2nd day July 21, 2005

'I owe Kevin a beer or two'

Michael Clarke: "It's not every day you score 91 at Lord's" © Getty Images

Despite missing out on a century on his Ashes debut, Michael Clarke was nonetheless upbeat about Australia's prospects at the end of the second day at Lord's. "Yes, we're definitely in charge - what are we, 315 in front? That's a lot on that pitch. We've still got a couple of batsmen to come, and if we get to 350 or so, I think we'll have enough."

Clarke was obviously pleased with the way he played, and even those missing nine runs didn't bother him that much. "It was very important for me to get in and get some runs. Obviously I was a little bit disappointed. Frustration set in - I'd been tied down for about four overs - and I played a shot I'd like to take back. But it's not every day you score 91 at Lord's."

He hadn't had much success in the one-day series, but Clarke denied that there was much pressure on him. "I've always had great support from my team-mates - it was about believing in myself again, and playing the way that got me this far. I had a lot of time to think about how I was going to play, and how I was going to be successful. This England attack is the best I've played against, and I've played my way and backed my ability." And Clarke paid tribute to Damien Martyn's gritty effort of 65: "Damien was brilliant, he really toughed it out, and the way he played was very important for me."

The pitch, Clarke says, is still playing tricks. "The bounce from the top end is still very variable - still some balls are staying low, Damien's dismissal showed that. I don't think England put enough balls in that sort of Glenn McGrath area. But then Glenn's an unbelievable bowler and has been for a long time, and that's why he's the best in the world."

And what of Kevin Pietersen's dropped catch, when Clarke had only made 21? "Yeah, I think I owe Kevin a beer or two ..."

Not surprisingly, Pietersen himself didn't think that England were out of it: "I reckon it's pretty even at the moment. England have done it the last couple of years chasing in the fourth innings - and as long as we can get their last three out before lunch tomorrow we're going to have a very long time to get the runs. There's two-and-a-half days left, that's 200 overs, maybe more."

And unlike Clarke, Pietersen thinks the pitch has improved: "We thought it was going to get worse, but it looked today as if it had got a lot lot better. It has evened out a bit - there were a couple that rolled, that's all. The crucial part of tomorrow will be how we play the new ball, and Glenn McGrath's first spell."

Pietersen's debut was hyped like no-one's since Graeme Hick for England, and he admitted to a few nerves before he finally went in to bat yesterday. "There was a lot of talk about how I'd bat if England were 50 for 3 or 60 for 3 or whatever. And, whew, we were 20 for 5, weren't we?! But I enjoyed it this morning, having the freedom to smack a few."

Steven Lynch is the former editor of Cricinfo