Cricket Australia

http://www.cricket.com.au/Global Items/news/2013/7/5/clarke-leads-but-aussie-batsmen-follow

Clarke leads, but Aussie batsmen follow

UPDATED 05 July, 2013 11:08AM AEDT | by AAP

Leading from the front has been Michael Clarke's trademark since taking over as captain, but if tour match form is anything to go by, the superstar batsman won't be a lone force for Australia this Ashes series.

Clarke's superb century against Worcestershire on Thursday sent an emphatic message to England that he's over his back injury and ready to rumble.

On too many occasions in recent years, Clarke's brilliance has counted for little, with the rest of the line-up folding.

But from the warm-up matches in Somerset and Worcestershire, key men Shane Watson (90, 109) and Phil Hughes have looked excellent and every other recognised batsman has at least scored a 50.

The Australians need nine wickets to win the match on the final day in Worcester, with the home side requiring 393.

Hughes says the penny has dropped for Australia's under-pressure batsmen that Clarke can't win the Ashes back on his own.

"We've all got to stand up if we want to bring the Ashes back to Australia," Hughes said after himself hammering 86 from 84 on day three at New Road.

"It's not going to be one or two players. It's all of us together in this series. We've spoken about that."

Clarke, who looks to be settling in to a new home at No.4, blitzed 124 from 98 balls and was so convincing it's hard to believe he's only two matches back from a three month layoff.

Darren Lehmann's appointment as coach has put a spanner in the works for an England side who may have already been popping the champagne.

The fearless 10-0 predictions from England greats certainly seem to have subsided.

But even more relevant than Lehmann's off-field presence is the sight of Clarke moving freely at the crease.

In his four innings back he has two half centuries and a ton, in which he crushed 16 fours and three sixes.

It was a crucial psychological blow for Clarke to remind England they're coming up against the premier batsman in world cricket.

"It's a real good statement. He'd been out of the game about three months and to play last week, play well, then today to go on with that three figures is outstanding," Hughes said.

"His back, he's not even complaining about it and that's a real pleasing thing."

Unsurprisingly Clarke is the only Australian to have felt what it's like to score a series victory over England, and is the most experienced Ashes campaigner from either line-up.

He's scored four Ashes centuries, with 1365 runs at 45.50.

Hughes on the other hand averages 17.11 against England with a highest score of 36.

The 24-year-old has now cemented his place in the order, most probably at No.5.

Hughes has acknowledged he needed to fire against Somerset and Worcestershire.

"I knew before Somerset personally my form wasn't great and we all know we've got to get runs," he said.

"It's about performance, that's the bottom line. It's been nice to get runs behind me."

Ed Cowan is the frontrunner to bat No.3 in the first Test despite being dropped on nought and failing yet again to go on with a big score in the second innings, out for 34.

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

First Posted 05 July, 2013 10:55AM AEDT

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