Clarke rediscovers his swagger before the cruellest of ends

The Australian angle: Realising his position, Clarke bristled with energy from the moment he took guard

Overnight Mike Hussey and comrades held the Ashes in their hands. By now all England will know the news. If the old pro and chums saved the match then the Aussies can go to Perth with hope intact. If not they will need to take 20 wickets twice in three attempts at a cheaper rate than their opponents. It's not impossible but it's hardly likely. English wickets have been falling about once every week.

Until that last twist, the old pro and the vice captain did their utmost to keep their team in the contest. Michael Clarke's innings was important on several levels. His team needed a big innings from him and his form had been scratchy. Since moving to second wicket down, he had averaged 19 and some of his dismissals had been wanton. Australian cricket does not lightly bestow leadership. He needed to prove himself worthy of the position. After all, it might be open next month.

Of late, too, he had lost the brightness that sustained him in the early part of his career. Nor has it been replaced by the weight of mind expected from senior batsmen. Instead, he has been trapped midway between youth and age. Although lacking his power and ruthlessness at the crease, he has much in common with England's Kevin Pietersen. They have shone and suffered in similar ways. By stumps the irony could not be missed.

Clarke needed to give his career the second surge upon which so many depend. Realising the position, he bristled with energy from the moment he took guard. At first, observers feared for his survival. He seemed to be taking too many risks, driving on the rise, flicking nonchalantly, pulling off the front foot. But then dogged is not his style.

Clearly Australia had decided to maintain a normal tempo. "Slasher" McKay and "Barnacle" Bailey might have been able to block for 10 hours with 10 fieldsmen hovering around the bat but lesser mortals are better advised to adopt familiar strategies.

Convinced he is susceptible to lifters, England attacked Clarke with bumpers. Most were ill-directed and most fled down the leg-side as the batsman ducked. News travels fast and he is going to get plenty of rough treatment. These things can be turned to advantage. Short-pitched bowling wastes energy and eliminates most means of dismissal.

Contrastingly, his duel with Graeme Swann required wit. Swann is a match for any of the Pommy offies from the 1960s and 1970s. At once he is a craftsman and a competitor. Before long he found his length and was making batsmen grope.

Clarke was his equal, using his pegs to dance down the pitch, countering sharp spin with swift footwork. Previously Ian Bell had given an outstanding display of footwork against the slower bowlers thereby disproving hackneyed remarks about slow-footed Poms. The Australian was as quick but not as composed. Surrounded by catchers and determined to put the pressure back on the bowler, he drove and cut against the spin and occasionally tried to clout to leg. At times he went too far and survived more by luck than judgement.

Hereabouts Clarke's closest shave came as all England appealed for a snare at slip off a supposed inside edge. Tony Hill answered in the affirmative, Clarke asked for a referral and the third umpire cleared him on all charges. It was another instance of the excellent contribution made by the decision referral system.

Nor did the danger ever pass. Although the right hander batted perkily, using his artistic hands to put the ball away, his occupation was fraught. Repeatedly fieldsmen threw their hands in the air. Swann was irrepressible and Steven Finn produced his most awkward spell. Even Hussey, an old pro enjoying a fifth lease of life, was hanging on. A wicket never seemed far away. Australia seemed to be playing on a different pitch. It was another reverse of recent experiences.

Clarke and chum almost made it. All the hard work had been done. One miserable over remained and it was bowled by a part-timer; six wretched balls from safety. He subdued the extra bounce detected in the first offering. And then... and then... but you know what happened next.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot