Cricket Australia Items/Blogs/brett-mckay/2012/1/6/magnificent-michael-clarke

Brett McKay

Magnificent Michael Clarke

06 January 2012

The SCG started Day 3 all pinked up for recognition of the late Jane McGrath, and the exceptional ongoing work of the McGrath Foundation in its work in the fight against breast cancer.

By mid-afternoon, however, the ground was a definite shade of Michael Clarke as the Australian Captain extended his assault on the record books on his way to a magnificent unbeaten 329.

Starting the day on 251*, Clarke was already the new holder of the highest score by an Australian at the SCG. 

By lunch, he’d also topped Wally Hammond, Brian Lara, and Reginald “Tip” Foster to be the overall highest scorer on his beloved home ground.

Clarke became the seventh Australian player to make a Test triple century shortly after lunch. 

Between the start of the day and his shock declaration at Drinks in the afternoon session, Clarke jumped from 14th on the list of highest ever Australian Test scores to fourth, surpassing the likes of Bradman, Ponting, Ponsford, Yallop, Cowper, and Simpson along the way.

Interestingly, between 251 and 329, Clarke passed four scores made by Sir Donald Bradman, but of course, left the most famous of all in front of him. 

Former Australian Captain, Mark Taylor, was also looking on as 334 neared, and he was as stunned as I imagine most viewers and spectators were when Clarke declared the Australian innings at 4/659, just after Mike Hussey brought up his 150.

By this stage, Clarke had seen 622 runs added to the Aussie total since he walked to the crease. 

He’d batted for so long that his name is now permanently burnt into the SCG scoreboards and plasma TVs around the country.

There wasn’t much doubt that a declaration would come at some point. 

India really weren’t bowling well enough, and were far too lax in their intensity to take another six Australian wickets.

But I would’ve thought it wouldn’t be until well after Tea, which still would have given Australia plenty of time to take ten wickets and not to have to worry about batting again. 

A lead of 468 should still be heaps, and Australia still shouldn’t have to bat again, but when individual milestones of this magnitude emerge, you can’t help but become a little selfish for the batsman well on his way.

And make no mistake, Matthew Hayden’s 2003 Australian mark of 380 and even Brian Lara’s 2004 Test Record 400* were both in grave danger. 

Hussey had the foot down for most of his innings on Day 3, but Clarke was starting to lift his tempo himself.   

From 300 onwards, Clarke was essentially going at a run-a-ball.

Consequently, it must truly be the mark of the man that even at this biggest individual moment in Clarke’s career - possibly his life - that the team requirements still came first.

What's more, any remaining knockers have surely now been silenced.

This all said, Clarke’s declaration had the look of genius about it when danger man Virender Sehwag departed in the fourth over of India’s innings. 

Never mind that it was just the second wicket to fall in a bit less than two days, this was one of the biggest hurdles the Australian bowling attack would face while defending this rather big lead. 

Sehwag even on a quiet day can still take down the very best, so to get him early was a very happy bonus.

Gautam Gambhir seems to have regained some of his touch again, an obviously welcome return considering he’d made only two scores over 22 away from the subcontinent in the last 12 months. 

He had his moments still, particularly an edge off Ben Hilfenhaus that fell just short of Clarke at first slip, but he’ll be happy to finish the day on 68*.

Rahul Dravid’s unhappy time continues though. 

Following on from being bowled in successive innings in Melbourne, Dravid went that way again, for the sixth time in his last eight innings. 

And as was the case in the first innings in Melbourne, it was case of playing down the wrong line as a Hilfenhaus delivery cut back on him to bowl him through the gate.

The wicket of Dravid brought the second standing ovation for Sachin Tendulkar for this Test, and he in turn seemed to bring with him instructions for the dressing room to play as few shots as possible until stumps. 

He faced 42 balls for the evening, to finish 8 not out.

Tendulkar had a moment late in the day, where a stumps-bound inside edge caught the pad flap on his back leg, taking it away from the stumps and to the boundary for four. 

That little deflection might’ve annoyed the Australian team, but it may well have saved a ten thousand-seat slump in sales for Day 4.  The pursuit of the hundredth hundred continues...

Gambhir, too, had a scare in the second last over, with Brad Haddin dropping what can only be described as a regulation catch.  India will start Day 4 on 2/114, still trailing Australia by 354 runs.

It was Jane McGrath Day at the SCG, but even with India putting up a little bit of late fight, it really was Michael Clarke’s day.  And well played to him.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
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