England coach praises his batting April 10, 2007

Clarke stars in dream Caribbean run

AFP



Michael Clarke has posted three half-centuries in five innings © Getty Images

Michael Clarke is showing growing maturity by taking advantage of the slow and flat Caribbean pitches as he closes on a World Cup average of 100. Clarke, who celebrated his 26th birthday on April 2, hit an unbeaten 55 against England on Sunday - it was his third half-century - to continue a tournament to remember.

After five innings at No. 4 Clarke has scored 296 runs with a high of 93 not out and an average of 98.66. "There's not much seam, not much swing by the time I get out there," Clarke said, "so if I can't make runs on wickets like that, I'll never make them."

Despite his success, Clarke said it was the Australian openers Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist as well as Ricky Ponting who were proving crucial to his efforts. "It has certainly made my life easier," he said. "And Andrew Symonds will have enjoyed spending a bit of time in the middle. It's great to see him in a bit of form."

Clarke's calculated approach on Sunday, on an Antiguan pitch which became slower as the match wore on, drew praise from the England coach Duncan Fletcher, who used him as an example in pacing an innings. Clarke took 42 balls to hit his first boundary and joined in a 112-run partnership with Ponting that lifted Australia from 2 for 89.

"If you look at Michael Clarke he showed a lot of patience and that's the key - show some patience and don't panic, it's important to build momentum slowly," Fletcher said. "Sometimes you go in there and you can find the gaps but other times you have to work out which angles you can hit and which angles you can't hit. But the longer you stay out there the easier it gets and Clarke showed it. When Ricky Ponting was batting freely Clarke was just occupying one end and slowly got himself into nick."

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