Australian angle: Clarke comes of age in a fading side

Peter Roebuck of the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age writes from Lord's

Michael Clarke did his utmost to hold the line but Andrew Flintoff and chums could not be stopped. Anything seemed possible as Brad Haddin and the Australian vice-captain laid about them on the fourth evening. A 59-year-old can finish equal top in the Open. A student can be found alive after spending 12 nights sleeping rough in the Blue Mountains. Could Australia chase 500? At first the pair seemed merely to be throwing pies at an advancing tank, making a last defiant gesture before bowing to the inevitable. As the afternoon wore on, though, they began to bat with increasing confidence until audacity itself could be detected in their mien.

It was not to be. Awakening England did not take long to crush Australia's ambitions. Within 10 minutes hopes of securing a famous victory had been dashed as Andrew Strauss's bowlers pitched the ball up. Inevitably Freddie Flintoff led the charge.

All the more reason to praise Clarke's adroit hand. Without him Australia might have suffered not a mere defeat but a devastating blow. At first sight Clarke seems a batsman of sunshine and mood, not one to grit his teeth. Here he confirmed that he has the stomach for the fight and the skill to deal with demanding bowling and intense pressure.

Not that he lacked style. His footwork is exceptionally quick and, alone among these Australians, he regularly steps down the pitch to attack spinners. If anything his use of his hands was even more charming as he used his wrists to glide the ball through the covers or tucked it off his pads. His lack of rigidity reminds us that, along with Phillip Hughes, he is coached by Neil D'Costa, an Indian who settled in Sydney.

Clarke's hundred at Lord's indicated that, after customary twists and turns, his career is on track. His debut hundred in Bangalore in October 2004 hinted at exceptional ability and emotional attachment. He batted with a spring in his step and a song in his heart. Hearing he was playing, his family flew across the oceans and tears were shed as he tapped Anil Kumble into a gap to collect his 100th run. A few minutes earlier Clarke had swapped his helmet for a green cap so that he could kiss its emblem when he reached three figures. Even then he did not lack confidence. Another hundred followed in his first home Test and for a time the artist resembled a machine.

It did not last. Clarke became distracted by the trumpets and trinkets that accompany talent on its journey. Before long his concentration was wavering and a careless cut in Hobart cost him his place. Although his head was hot, his technique was the main problem. His bat was crooked in defence and his shot selection awry. Here was another young man forced to confront his shadow.

Clarke went into the nets and corrected his mistakes. He did not want to stifle his batting or character, just score more runs. So he charted a path forwards as an independent young man, superb batsman and future captain. Attracted by the high life, he realised it was a question of striking a balance between instinct and duty. Clarke came to understand that batting was his calling, cricket his life, and that there was a time and place for the rest. Since his return to the team, Clarke, 28, has become a top-class batsmen. Whereas in 2005 England could tease him till be undid himself, now he is humble and alert.

Australia were not going to go down with a whimper on his watch. Always he has fought in his country's corner, rejecting Indian Premier League contracts to conserve energy, nursing a bad back. He has even captained the Twenty20 team, and with the vitality detected in his batting. He has always been frustrated by Ricky Ponting's intransigent leadership.

Despite his hundred, though, Australia did lose at Lord's. Suddenly the bowling looks thin and the future, his future, seems bleak. A captain without bowlers walks naked onto the field. Here is a cricketer at the height of his powers, who has just played the innings of his life, wondering whether the best is already behind him.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas