John Townsend: Michael Clarke's majesty highlights the yawning chasm in batting order

The Aussie Angle: The more he props up the top order, the wider the gap appears

There is a gap in Australian cricket and no matter what Michael Clarke does to bridge it, the task is beyond even his considerable powers. It is Australia's version of the omnipotence paradox.

The classic conundrum poses the question whether an omnipotent being could create a stone so heavy that even he could not lift it. The answer may be apparent to Kumar Dharmasena but no one else. Australia's paradox centres on the yawning chasm that exists between Clarke and the next best batsman. And the more Clarke props up Australia's top order with yet another innings of bravery and substance, the wider that gap appears.

Chris Rogers hinted at the depths of his quality with his first-innings 84. And Steve Smith's mature 89 suggested an option with whom to persevere. Yet, for all their promise, they were overshadowed by the captain whose Old Trafford effort was one of the most substantial innings played by a man in his position in recent Australian history.

Clarke's ability was showcased in Australia in 2012 when he piled up runs in such vast quantity that he broke any number of batting records. A triple century at the SCG, consecutive doubles in Brisbane and Adelaide, and an average above 100 were sky-scraping landmarks in a memorable 12-month period.

It was a year to savour yet, somehow, those performances did not resonate with the same authority that marked the highest score of his Ashes career. Context is everything.

His team 2-0 down in the series, the opposition boasting several world-class bowlers and he required to combat them after two top-order wickets had vanished in the blink of an eye, the scent of the pivotal battle brought the best out of Clarke.

Like Don Bradman seven decades before him, Clarke's class and match-changing ability place him head and shoulders above the next best player in the team.

And just as Bradman fell for 187 on his return to Test cricket in 1946-47, Clarke perished with the same figure beside his name.

It was Australia's highest overseas score since the barely conceivable 201 not out compiled by nightwatchman Jason Gillespie against Bangladesh seven years ago. And Clarke now has four of his team's past five centuries made outside Australia.

Not only is he a much better player than his team-mates but Clarke is one of the very few who can perform close to his capacity when he moves away from the comforts of home. The right-hander had been reluctant to move up from No 5, arguing that his average of 63 and 20 tons were compelling reasons to remain in the lower reaches of the line-up.

But with David Warner restored at No 6, and a group of inexperienced left-handers in the top order, Clarke put his personal considerations aside in the best interests of the team.

It was a bold move and one vindicated by his return from the labour of seven and a half hours in the middle.

There was the odd stroke or two of luck against James Anderson – he slammed a short ball into Graeme Swann at short cover and squirted an inside edge that caught Matt Prior wrong-footed – but he mostly batted with magisterial authority.

It was appropriate that Clarke's 24th century drew him level with Greg Chappell, the greatest Australian player of his own era.

Clarke played much of his early days in Test cricket attempting to emerge from long shadows cast by Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden.

It is now his time. And while his shadow extends over the wide gap to the rest of the nation's batting prospects, it is not the bridge that Australia need.

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
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

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin