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May 31, 2008
Maturity has been one of the reasons behind Michael Clarke's elevation to Australia's vice-captaincy and he showed it throughout the second day in Antigua, where he made what he described as his most special Test hundred. Clarke's on-field promotion to Ricky Ponting's deputy was delayed by the death of his fiancee's father, Graham Bingle, and he stayed in Sydney while his team-mates prepared for the first Test.
He has quickly made up for the lost time. Australia were looking to push towards a large total when Clarke resumed in the morning on 38 and he ensured the side was in excellent health by stumps, having scored his seventh Test century and chipped in with two late wickets.
Clarke knew his duties would increase with the new role, but nobody expected such an immediate impact. When he reached his hundred he dripped tears and leaned back to look at the sky. "There were a couple," Clarke said after play, "it was obviously very emotional."
However, he said it was an easy decision to return to the team and he had the blessing of those close to him. "I've been so keen to get over here and be part of the West Indies tour," he said. "This is the first Test match I've played here. It was hard to leave the family back at home, but I had their support. I know they all wanted me to come over here and do my best."
Clarke said that was also the wish of Graham Bingle. "He told me [before he died] to come over here and play," Clarke told AAP. "He didn't want me to stay at home, so it was special to make this hundred for him. No doubt I wanted to make a hundred for him, no doubt because I knew he wanted me to be over here playing cricket, he didn't want me back at home."
For a player who hasn't appeared in a game since March, his sensible 110 was an outstanding effort. There were 12 fours, including the on-drive to bring up his hundred, before the innings ended on the 187th ball when he top edged a pull to Xavier Marshall at midwicket. Clarke wasn't finished.
His magic touch transferred to his bowling when he picked up two vital wickets before stumps, including the set Marshall. In his third over Clarke trapped Marshall lbw when he padded up on 53, and followed it up five balls later when Runako Morton's miscued slog went to Simon Katich at short midwicket.
"I've snuck in a couple of wickets, it was nice," Clarke said. "I asked Ricky for a bit of a bowl a few times and I think he got sick of me asking, so he had to give me a go."
West Indies finished at 125 for 3 and Australia hold a lead of 324. "We played really well, 479 is a really good score on that wicket," he said. "It's going to be a tough day tomorrow, so fingers crossed we can get out there and have another bat."
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