Who averages 1022 in Test cricket this year, every time he crosses 100? Who is the player having a conversion rate of close to 80% in scoring centuries? Who is it that has broken the record of Bradman and Ponting today by scoring an unprecedented 4th double ton in the calendar year?
The answer to all of the above is Michael Clarke, the captain of the Australian Test team. From the time he has been made the captain, he has been contributing with the bat. The century in the final test in Sri Lanka, where Australia conceded a 163 run lead remains fresh in the mind. His batting in that innings was of such top quality that not a single run came off the edge (outside/inside) of the bat.
Then came the century at Cape Town. People remember it as much for the stroke play as for the examination of his technique against shorter ball by Steyn. Today too, in the initial phase of his innings, he was subjected to the same treatment by the same bowler. Steyn came back with the same questions, with Clarke on 98 this time. For added menace he went around the wicket. What was surprising was the fact that they abandoned that line of attack way too early.
While he had his problems against Steyn, he took a particular liking to Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir. There were two shots that he played off Morne Morkel that will stand the test of the time. One, a leg-cutter pitched on the off stump that Clarke lofted over mid-off for a boundary. It was the execution of the stroke that can impress any purist. He stayed rooted to the crease, standing tall and with the upper body leaning forward he lofted an inside-out drive over the mid-off fielder. The next shot that will remain in the memory is the on-drive of the final ball of the over in which he creamed five boundaries. With minimal follow through, it was a sight to behold.
Apart from the short ball test, there was a probing spell that was bowled to him by Kleinveldt post that blitz after lunch. He induced three edges, all of which flew to the boundary, that Kleinveldt was unlucky not to get a wicket of. There was one appeal in du Plessis’ over that Smith didn’t refer. If he had, Clarke would’ve been dismissed as the replays found him to be in line with the stumps when the ball made contact with his pad.
37-3. 84-3. 40-3. 55-3. These are the scores that Clarke has come in and scored double centuries (a triple) from. If he had Cowan & Hussey for company in the last test, this time around it was Warner & Hussey.
His treatment of Tahir would have bought some semblance of smile on Bryce McGain’s face. The problem for Steyn & co, is that its not over yet