NSW v Tasmania, Sheffield Shield, Blacktown, 1st day October 30, 2013

Clarke's 88 sustains Blues

New South Wales 8 for 275 (Clarke 88, Rainbird 5-57) v Tasmania

Slowly and deliberately, like an adult trying to remember childhood lessons at the piano, Michael Clarke regathered his batting skills and touch while leading New South Wales against Tasmania in the opening Sheffield Shield match of the season at Blacktown. Helping add to his familiarity was the fact that no other batsman could stay with him for long.

Clarke's 88, from a carefully paced 190 balls, was a welcome return to the game for the Australia captain, as earlier this month he had expressed pessimism about his fitness for the first Ashes Test at the Gabba. But the travails of the batsmen around him, including his likely Test match team-mates David Warner and Steve Smith, provided a reminder of why Australia's selectors have fretted over Clarke's fitness.

On the outskirts of a comeback century, Clarke flirted a little too readily with a ball angled across him by the young Tasmanian Sam Rainbird and snicked a catch for one of the left-armer's five wickets. He swished angrily at the stumps upon departure and by close, the Blues shared Clarke's frustration, having tallied only 8 for 275 on a slowish but otherwise blameless surface.

Rainbird bowled effectively for the Tigers and Ben Hilfenhaus was parsimonious after picking up the early wicket of Warner, but the stumps score reflected NSW profligacy as much as Tasmanian perseverance. Warner, Nic Maddinson, Smith and Ryan Carters all flattered to deceive in innings of unfulfilled promise.

It was left to the less heralded left-hander Scott Henry to accompany Clarke for a century stand, his diligent stay deserving of more runs but ended when he touched a Luke Butterworth delivery behind. Smith will be most frustrated by his exit, lacing a pull shot straight to midwicket after breezing into the 40s.

That wicket had Clarke resolved to bat the remainder of the day, but Rainbird ultimately tempted him into a shot best not played. It can be expected that more time at the crease will allow Clarke to build up his reserves of patience and judgment as well as physical readiness for the Gabba.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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  • Andrew on October 31, 2013, 3:25 GMT

    Good work out for Clarke - & Smith was good while he was there. Interesting - whilst SO'K didn't get runs, he has picked up another wicket. Really should be in the Test squad.

  • kieran on October 31, 2013, 1:59 GMT

    Broad will have his usual series; expensive, wicketless sessions and inept batting ended by gloving a bouncer. Of course this will then be followed by unplayable, series-defining spells of quick hostile bowling and some annoying tail-wagging ball-clubbing rescuing England from a perilous 8-230 to a match-winning 374.

  • Hamish on October 31, 2013, 0:16 GMT

    @villageblacksmith, that might be true but would have to mean every other batsmen kills him when the good old angry Broad comes out bowling all over the place, having an economy of 5 and blaming the fielders when he repeats his feats of averaging 80 odd last Ashes series in Australia.

    Or we could take the more probable root of Clarke relieving his feats of his last two home summers: triple centuries, double centuries, and every now and then the small, average century.

  • R on October 30, 2013, 11:23 GMT

    clarko's nemesis broad will hit him hard 2-3 times (hand ribs helmet) and he will be out for not much…. x 10

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