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July 21, 2013
Features : A chasm yawns wide
Jarrod Kimber : Aussies struggle to provide value for money
Report : England complete crushing four-day win
Guest Column : Payback not so much fun after all
Players/Officials: Michael Clarke
Matches: England v Australia at Lord's
Series/Tournaments: Australia tour of England and Scotland
If there was optimism in Michael Clarke's voice after Trent Bridge, it had turned to utter desolation at Lord's. On the receiving end of Australia's sixth consecutive Test defeat, a sequence last experienced in the grim days of 1984, Clarke was clearly upset by a hiding that has all but ended the team's hopes of regaining the Ashes in England.
Speaking frankly of the team's myriad batting problems and the pressure that has placed on the bowlers, Clarke also conceded the defeats were taking a heavy toll on him, and said his own vision of what the Australian team should be had been shaken by a succession of losses that is now the equal of the run that ended Kim Hughes' captaincy when repeatedly humbled by the West Indies.
"Every team I've been a part of that's lost - it's obviously been extremely tough and you probably take it more personally when you're captain of the team as well," Clarke said. "Our performance with the bat in the first innings was unacceptable. The wicket was very good for batting, we had a great opportunity and we let ourselves down.
"The reason you play any sport is to try and win - that's the way I have been brought up. But half of my problem I guess is that I walked into such a great Australian team that won as a habit and that was something I became accustomed to and used to. I don't want that to change. At the moment we are not performing as well as I would like. We are letting everyone down at the moment with the way we are batting. Our bowlers are fighting hard, we are making them bowl every single day because we are not putting enough runs on the board."
Clarke tackled the matter of Australia's batting and the terminal lack of application and patience that has repeatedly hindered the team's efforts to build match-shaping scores. In seven Test matches since January only two hundreds have been made by Australian batsmen - Matthew Wade against Sri Lanka in Sydney and Clarke himself in Chennai.
"We've got plenty of experience in our top seven, we've seen already in this series that guys can score runs against this attack," Clarke said. "Our shot selection was poor and we just didn't have the discipline that England had. England were willing to bat for long periods and graft through the tough times - and we certainly weren't in that first innings."
"I don't want anybody in our team to not play their natural game and not back their natural instinct. You have to do that 100 per cent. But like it or not, when you're playing against good opposition there are going to be tough times in your innings as a batsman and you've got to find a way to get through that. In my career, the way I've tried to get through those periods is with my defence."
Causes for Australia's lack of consistent run-scoring have been debated for some time and Clarke has commented strongly by his own choice of career path, shelving international Twenty20 duty to better prepare for Test matches and ODIs, while also skipping several domestic T20 tournaments in order to preserve his fragile back.
"I think you learn that defence at the age of 10," Clarke said. "Obviously there are three different formats we now play and there's times through your career in T20 cricket, or one-day cricket where you make a 50 off 25 balls or a hundred off 50 balls, that's a great innings. But I know in Test cricket, some of the best innings I've ever seen in my career are guys making a hundred off 350 balls. So there's a time and a place.
"I love all three forms. My reason to retire from T20 was to focus on ODI and Test cricket. I felt my game had to improve in certain areas to stay in the team. I try to use the time that I'm not playing T20 to improve my game. Everyone is in a different boat and different age and stage of life. I can't make decisions for other people. There is room for all three formats in the game but you must be a very good player to perform at all three formats."
The player who has best met the demands of all three formats of the game is the now retired Michael Hussey. It cannot be a coincidence that over the past 12 months Australia are yet to win an international match overseas without him.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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