Warne, Haddin fortify Clarke
Among the many routines established by Michael Clarke over near enough to a decade in the Australian Test team, one stands out for its inconsistent application but invariably rewarding results. Whenever he can, Clarke spends time with his friend and mentor Shane Warne, discussing the game and his own batting. More than anything else, Clarke seeks reassurance, of the kind Warne once sought himself from Terry Jenner, aka the "spin doctor".
Warne is not always available to Clarke, his celebrity schedule precluding their crossing paths on plenty of tours and during plenty of matches. But when they do, the effect can be immediate. Take this passage from Clarke's Ashes Diary published before the current bout with England. The match that followed was the third Test at Old Trafford, where Clarke stroked his way to 187.
"Tonight, Kyly and I went for a quick dinner with him, talking about the game and the series so far. I was asking him for anything he's seen in the two matches that can give us an edge. He's a great friend and I value his opinions. Most of all, what he gives me is an injection of self-belief. When I worry about my game, Warney is saying, 'No, mate, you're creaming them, you'll make a hundred for sure.'
"When it comes from a player and watcher of his quality and experience, I believe him. I don't think I've ever come out of a conversation with Warney where I don't have a smile on my face and am walking a bit taller, ready to face whatever or whoever I'm facing. He's a fantastic mentor and motivator. I wish I could carry that confidence with me every day of my life."
Clarke and Warne had dinner in Adelaide on the first night of this Test, while the captain sat pensively on 48 not out. When he resumed on day two he looked very much indeed like a man ready to face "whatever or whoever". Helping this was the fact he was accompanied by Brad Haddin, another senior figure to have had an enormous influence on Clarke.
Anxiety had been evident in much of Australia's batting on the first day, but Clarke and Haddin showed no such signs when they resumed. Tucking confidently into what remained of the second new ball, they then warded off the threat posed by the spin of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann with such aplomb that the run rate continued to lift, rather than being slowed by the turning ball.
A batsman as nimble on his feet as Clarke can make spin bowling the sort of art that appears too difficult for even the rare breed that feels driven to practise it. Panesar and Swann were the men most likely to surge through Australia on the second morning, as the drop-in pitch offered a level of deviation quite disconcerting for any new batsman - Steve Smith finding this out to his discomfort on day one.
But Clarke's feet neutralised Panesar with a precision that left England's spinners doubting the existence of any such thing as a perfect length. In the space of one early over, Clarke skipped down to a flighted ball on the full and clipped it to the midwicket boundary. Three balls later a delivery of good line and sharp spin but subtly shorter length was cut behind point with a crispness that drew awed applause from the oval's members enclosure. Next delivery Clarke was down again and jogging a single - Panesar has bowled far worse maidens, yet this over had cost nine runs.
"We know he's such a good player of spin bowling, he's so quick on his feet and it was important we kept the scoreboard moving in that first session," Hadin said later. "It was the best time with the ball being hard and the best the wicket was for the match. You've seen since Michael's taken over his batting's gone to another level. He loves batting at this ground, he averages over 100 here, so I think he's just done what he's done over the last few years so it was no surprise."
By the end of the first hour, 66 runs had been added without loss, leaving Alastair Cook's brow deeply furrowed and England's attitude sunken from cautious optimism to grim thoughts of settling in to scrounge a draw. They were to be sent scurrying around the oval for some time yet, however, as Haddin set about compiling the century that had eluded him in Brisbane.
Like Warne, Haddin has played a large part in shaping Clarke's thoughts on the game, and the manner in which he drives it forward. A bold and brazen captain of New South Wales, Haddin's aggression and invention left a lasting impression on the young Clarke, who remained loyal to him as a leader even after Simon Katich was recruited from Western Australia and installed as leader of the Blues.
Haddin and Clarke are less similar than Clarke and Warne, their shared interests and outlooks tending to begin and end with the winning of cricket matches, though there is also a mutual love of family between them. Over time they have come to realise that they need each other, the vice-captain's clear thinking and common touch with team-mates allowing Clarke more room to concentrate on the imperious batting he is most admired for. Their respective roles as old salt and young protege were still evident in what become a record stand for the sixth wicket in Adelaide.
There was a time when Clarke had the chance to bring Haddin back into the team and did not, as part of a selection panel that kept Matthew Wade as Test gloveman despite his predecessor's return from compassionate leave to be with his gravely ill daughter Mia. At the time Haddin was steadfast in his belief that he would be called upon, a view that would be proved right. Ultimately, Clarke was reunited with the man who had informed much of his agile captaincy and batting, for the same reason he had dined with Warne. Reassurance.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here