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 Nor has it been replaced by the weight of mind expected from senior batsmen.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.

Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?