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September 20, 2011
Australia's 1-0 series victory over Sri Lanka, completed with a draw at the SSC in Colombo, was one of Michael Clarke's proudest days. Not only did he lead his team to success at the first time of asking across three Tests in unfamiliar conditions against a higher-ranked opponent, but Clarke also made the series safe with a telling contribution.
There were equal parts of personal and team satisfaction as Clarke reflected on a tour during which Australia also won the ODI series 3-2. Of particular importance for Australian cricket was the emergence of a young group including Shaun Marsh, Nathan Lyon and Trent Copeland, who all debuted and contributed. Add to that the runs of Phillip Hughes, and there was plenty of progress made.
"It's as special a day as I've had, no doubt," Clarke said. "We put in a lot of work to come on this tour and perform well. I know seven years ago Ricky [Ponting], in his first Test series as captain, won here so it's certainly very special.
"The way the boys played, the way [Michael] Hussey played, he had an amazing series. I was so stoked for Hughesy, Copes, Lyon and young Shaun Marsh. Everyone has contributed and that's the most pleasing thing.
"To get those three figures is a great feeling because it has taken such a long time. Throughout my career there's been plenty of ups and downs but of late, in Test cricket, there's probably been more downs than ups. My statistics have not been as I would've liked. I had a horrible Ashes series, as I've made very clear, and to be able to help this team win this series by making some runs today is very special."
The tourists still had plenty to do at the start of the final day, and scrounging out a draw has not been an Australian trait since the days of Allan Border.
"The start of the day was pretty tough," Clarke said. "I said to the boys, when they ran their first drinks out, that was as tough a 20 runs as I've scored in my career. Things got a little bit easier from there. Batting with Huss [Man of the Series, Michael Hussey] makes a big difference. He's in some great nick and allowed me to play my way.
"I was still trying to play positively, if we could get the runs quickly enough to try and set up a bit of a game. But as the day unfolded the wicket was very good to bat on, there was a little bit of spin and reverse swing but it was still a very good batting wicket.
"I'm stoked to have made a hundred. It's been way too long. It's about time I guess but it's very satisfying and a great feeling to have scored it under those circumstances."
Central to Clarke's effort on the final day was a calculated attack on the left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who ultimately had figures of 7 for 157. He could have spun Sri Lanka to a realistic last-day target had Clarke not shown courage in dancing down the wicket to deliveries that spun and bounced out of the rough.
"It got me out in the end, didn't it? I've always said that about spin. I feel I try to play as positively as I can against spin, and probably more positive once the ball's spinning," Clarke said. "But I get out a lot to spin as well, there's obviously risk there. Fortunately, today I had a little bit of luck.
"I hit some balls out of the middle, a couple of balls I don't know how they missed the stumps and went between my legs. I was pleased I had the courage, like Hughesy yesterday, to be able to go and play my way. There's always a risk, when the ball's spinning away and you're going down the wicket, there's always a risk of missing it.
"I think he's [Herath] bowled really well throughout the series, he got seven today. He's a wonderful bowler and I was just fortunate it was my day today."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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