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January 20, 2011
Michael Clarke, Australia's stand-in captain, has defended the way he batted during the first one-day international against England at the MCG. Australia won the match by six wickets with Shane Watson hitting an unbeaten 161, but Clarke's 57-ball 36 threatened to stall the run chase and increased the pressure on his partner.
The home supporters were clearly unimpressed as they booed Clarke when he played a dot ball and cheered when he got off strike. It continued a difficult summer for Clarke, whose popularity has taken a severe hit following off-field issues and a slump in form. Following the Ashes series, where he scored 193 runs at 21.44, and made his Test captaincy debut at Sydney, he retired from Twenty20 cricket so he could focus on his batting in the longer formats.
Clarke is currently filling the No. 3 role that will be Ricky Ponting's when he recovers from a broken finger, and he stood by his performance. "What's important for me as the captain of this team right now is to do whatever it takes to help Australia win every game of cricket we play," Clarke said. "I thought throughout that period when I was batting with Watto that it was important to get a partnership.
"We thought in those conditions both Swann and Yardy were going to be quite tough to score off, so we had to be patient throughout that middle period. When I first walked out to bat, the ball was reverse-swinging a little bit.
"It wasn't the easiest of conditions to walk out and just smack it. Watto was playing an amazing knock and my role was to get up the other end and try not to lose wickets, try to build a partnership. We put on a hundred-run partnership which helped us set up the game."
The first ODI followed two Twenty20 matches where quick scoring was far more evident and Clarke suggested the fans needed to adjust to a change in tempo. "If people want to see fours, sixes and wickets taken every ball, that's not international cricket," he said. "My role will be the same it has been over the 180 one-dayers I've played, to play the best type of cricket I can for the team, try to help win the game. If it means I need to go steady, I go steady. If it means I come in early and need to maximise the Powerplay, well then I maximise the Powerplay."
However, while Clarke was bullish about his own performance and Australia's victory he knows the team needs to improve after a shoddy display in the field. Brad Haddin had a poor match with three missed stumpings, while an early run-out opportunity went begging and a wicket fell to a Brett Lee no-ball. England's 294 was their highest score against the hosts in Australia, but it could have been even more.
"Our bowling and our fielding for the first 30 overs of the game was as bad as I've seen and played in," Clarke said. "The whole team is aware of that. But as a batting unit, I thought we went about it the right way."
Clarke will again have to juggle a group of expensive fast bowlers with Shaun Tait likely to replace the ill Mitchell Johnson. However, he should be able to rely on some control from Nathan Hauritz, who earned the specialist spinner's role for the World Cup and will belatedly resume his international summer.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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