Ashes 2015: I tried to hit it as hard as I can, says Michael Clarke as he defends dismissal

Australian captain denies his side's first-innings total of 60 was 'embarrassing'

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The Independent Online

Australia’s captain, Michael Clarke, has insisted that the toughest batting conditions he has ever faced contributed to the shortest first innings in Test history, which saw his side all out in 111 balls and 94 minutes, though he admitted it was one of his worst experiences in cricket.

Clarke refused to respond to the question of whether the first-innings total of 60, which England accelerated beyond to lead by 214 runs with six wickets in hand, had been “embarrassing”. “I will let you use your own words. I’m not going to give you any words to use,” he said. But he defended the wild drive to Stuart Broad’s ball which led to his dismissal, on a day which left England with a huge grip on the Ashes and could possibly result in Clarke stepping aside as captain before the fifth Test at The Oval.

“He pitches it up and I hit it as hard as I can. I see guys around me getting out trying to defend. I say you live by the sword, you die by the sword,” Clarke said. “Nothing went right at all. But as captain you need to be as positive as you can be. There’s still a lot of time left.”

He did not reject the idea that there was a “technical deficiency in a side which was drilled for the spin of last winter’s subcontinental tour but seem incapable of dealing with pronounced English swing and seam. “It’s obviously hard to bat when the ball is swinging and seaming, that’s one thing we’ve experienced over here,” Clarke said. “We can obviously improve against seam, swing, spin. You are looking to get better in any way possible. The best way to get better is to bat in those conditions. It’s always a lot easier watching than it is playing.”

After his return of 8 for 15 in 9.3 overs – the third-best return in English Test cricket history after Jim Laker’s collective haul of 19 across the two innings at Old Trafford in 1956 – Broad reflected on “one of the best days England have had in the Ashes – ever”. But he cautioned against any discussion on England winning the Ashes. “We’ve been conscious all week about not talking about winning the Ashes,” he said. “That takes you to a very dangerous place.”

Broad joked that this previous best had been 7 for 12 against Kimbolton Schools Under-15s – a Cambridgeshire team – in his teenage years. Among the influences he cited for the regalvanisation of England after the pitiful World Cup was the chance to meet Bob Willis, part of the policy of bringing past and present internationals together.

“I’ve [only] listened to him on Sky Sports’ The Verdict [highlights programme] so that was a bit concerning!” Broad said. “But he was good company, a warm guy, good wine choice! It gave the young guys who see him on The Verdict a different view. It’s been such a good thing – the team getting [to meet] past players. Bob is genuinely desperate for England to win the Test series and that drives the guys on.”

Broad said it was the Ben Stokes catch from his bowling that dismissed Adam Voges which had staggered him. “It was behind him. He had no right to collect it. He has got this nasty broken finger from a few years ago and can’t straighten it. So he was claiming it was his claw that got it for him!”

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