Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 3rd day November 23, 2013

Clarke continues Gabba love affair

The short ball was no trouble for Michael Clarke and he treated Graeme Swann with disdain as he continued his superb Brisbane form

The definition of funky captaincy seems to only be truly known by Shane Warne. But moving all the fielders back to ensure that Michael Clarke is on strike to Stuart Broad should surely be considered funky captaincy. It is psychological, innovative and attacking.

Surely when Clarke came in, he wasn't expecting to be treated like a tailender? Clarke was expecting England to poke his flaw with a stick, but maybe not so hard.

What was more predictable was Broad coming on. It could have also been funky, but it had to happen despite the fact Broad had just finished a spell of bowling. Broad had a short leg and a leg slip, so Clarke knew what was coming. When it did, he pulled it.

Clarke has a pull shot, but he wouldn't generally play it to the tenth ball he faces. The next ball he was at it again. Two fours in two balls. It was a bit different to how he played the short ball in the first innings when he looked like an osteoarthritis-riddled octogenarian who walked into a game of cricket by accident.

The first pull had authority, the second one nervous energy, but he'd conquered something. Perhaps not his back, as he still didn't need to be twisting all the way, but he no longer looked like the target that Broad has been flicking darts at for six Tests.

The next over he played a back foot push as pretty as anything you will ever see, or at least as pretty as any three played in Test cricket this year. Broad bowled three more balls at him, one short that Clarke pulled to the sweeper on the boundary (a decidedly less funky move by Cook). James Anderson was taken off as well and Clarke was set.

The problem with Clarke is once he is set, you sort of have to wait for him to leave. At the last Gabba Test, had it been timeless, he'd still be out there batting. At the Gabba he's averaging over a hundred with five centuries. The short ball didn't work, he wasn't tested enough with full balls outside off stump, and the next best way to get Clarke out is when he walks down the wicket and misses a spinner when he's scored well more than a hundred. That is how England eventually got him. By then, any hope of a miracle victory was well gone.

It was Graeme Swann who took the wicket, it was his first. After 20.5 overs, Swann had 1 for 112. At the declaration he'd improved that too 2 for 135 off 27. Swann has travelled the world and been very successful. But in Australia, like many offspinners before him, he's not the same creature. Australian pitches eat up the best finger spinners, and other than success at the Adelaide Oval, Swann has been another casualty so far.

Clarke, and David Warner, played him like he was a part timer brought on to improve the over rate. When Swann finally removed Clarke, he mocked the fact he'd taken a wicket. As he took George Bailey's wicket, he seemed to say "two-fer". But Bailey's wicket probably deserved more than Swann mocking himself, as it was his 250th Test wicket, making him the third quickest there for England, and at an average of 28.

Yet in this match he's been out-bowled by Nathan Lyon and even at times Joe Root. At one stage Swann was so desperate he asked for a review of a ball that Warner had middled.

Swann's form at the Gabba is really the anti-Clarke. His first four overs here last time went for 34 runs. In the first innings of that Test he ended with 2 for 128. It's as if the Gabba doesn't like him. Some have suggested using more over spin, but it's not as if that's the easiest thing for a spinner to do. Although at times trying that might have been preferable to just looking disappointed that his fielders couldn't cut off the runs almost every single ball. It's not as if Swann is the only offspinner to have struggled at the Gabba. In the whole history of Test Cricket here, only six offspinners have taken produced five wicket hauls.

The combination of Clarke finding his feet, on his favourite ground, against Swann bowling on a pitch that hates him, when he was in a shocking mood, while his team was losing, against a guy who plays spin really well, meant that Clarke raced to his hundred and Swann had the sort of day Clarke did on day one. Clarke overcame his flaw, and rubbed salt in Swann's at the same time.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for

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  • ZCF on November 25, 2013, 7:02 GMT

    @Shaggy, Clarke was brilliant in 2012, but I still maintain that he underperformed. He should've had the 2006 that Ricky and Mohammad Yousuf had, or the 2010 Amla had. The difference between Clarke and these guys is that they all passed their overseas assignments, Clarke failed his, the easiest, against the WI(weaker attack than what Amla also struggled against there as well - quality twin spin&change seamers). Not to mention the fact that all of these other guys delivered from higher up the order. He was largely at home remember, and while the same could be said about Yousuf - Daryl Hair or not - English conditions are at a whole different level compared to the WI. Just ask Ricky's great Ashes squad the year before. My final view is that Clarke should've scored more runs and bagged at least a couple more centuries. Away to Ind&Eng he was reduced to his proper level - a 45 odd avg. Not the stuff of legends now is it?!

  • Graham on November 24, 2013, 9:40 GMT

    chechong0114 - The only empty seats were in the English dressing room because batsman were scurrying to pad up. Read the figures the ground was a sell out for the first 3 days. Its easy to do a little research.

  • Graham on November 24, 2013, 9:38 GMT

    ZCFOutkast ; 2012 - Clarke 1595 at Av 106.33, 2013 - 974 @ 48.7. That is 2569 runs @ 73.4 in the period he has "underperformed". Care to change your statement.

  • Peter on November 24, 2013, 5:17 GMT

    @chechong0114. I also was at the Gabba the first 2 days & there were no (official) seats for sale. There wasn't a seat not sold, the beer gardens were full, the German Club across the road was packed, I was there with hundreds of other spectators having a break, so not sure where this has come from.

  • Andrew on November 23, 2013, 23:06 GMT

    Here, here chechong the commentary has been fantastic including "new boy" Hussey and Bumble. Also like the pleasant banter between Vaughan & Warne and Slater is excellent as well as the "dry" wit of Healy. Still miss Richie and Bill and vale the incomparable Tony Greig, so sadly missed! (especially in an Ashes series)

  • Shakti on November 23, 2013, 21:51 GMT

    @Chechong.Amazing,I find Michael Slater noisy & irritating.I guess we South African's are more subdued.Attendance of 37000 is far from empty.Test cricket in Australia,India,South Africa & England is always well supported.Clarke seems to have a love affair at all Australian cricket grounds,yet not much love for those grounds overseas considering his averages away from Australia!

  • Mitch on November 23, 2013, 13:50 GMT

    For those asking about crowds-first three days all sell outs. 34000 each day, so over 100000 in first three days. Empty seats on tele might be mass bar runs (excellent facilities) or possibly groups going to the city for meals

  • Izmi on November 23, 2013, 11:28 GMT

    This is test cricket at lt's best. While England the current holders of the ashes is trying to cling onto the urn for a record fifth time the aussies are going all out trying to snatch it back. As a result the England batsmen had to face a barrage of short pitched and furious fast bowling from Johnson to prevent injury and also their wickets the sametime. It has looked like a battlefield from day one and the aussie spectators and England's Barmy Army cheering their team. Initially when the aussies were bowled out for 295 runs we thought England was on top and Stuart Broad got all the credit for capturing 6 aussie wickets for 65 runs and Haddin got some credit for his innings of 94 runs for the aussies. But we didn't realize what was to come on the second day when England were bowled out for a meagre 136 runs. The centuries by Warner and Clarke on the third day was a treat to watch and with a lead of 560 runs and 2 wickets already down with two days to go only rain can save England.

  • rob on November 23, 2013, 11:06 GMT

    @chechong0114: I'm not quite with you on the empty seats business. The ground was more or less full as far as I could see. I'm not sure of the figures but it could have been around 25000. .. You weren't focusing on the areas behind and around the sight screens were you?. There're always empty to stop those annoying delays when people move around the sight screen as the bowler moves in. No one is allowed to sit there, so they're always empty. .. Or was I seeing things with that healthy looking crowd.

  • James on November 23, 2013, 10:50 GMT

    I respect Cook, even as an Australian supporter. He looks like a nice guy, he is honest in his interviews and isn't overly cocky and arrogant like some of his team mates. But his captaincy needs work, he has admitted it though and he has proved to me that he IS a gentleman and a good player.

    The poms needed this though, they have been FAR to cocky for too long. They have been winning because other teams haven't been good enough rather than them being so much better. They wait for other teams to make mistakes, and that won't happen all the time. Australia can only get better from here, that's the thing. They can't do any worse than they have done in recent times so they have everything to gain and are playing with no fear.

    England are a good side when in front, but can they do it from behind?

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