Michael Clarke eclipses Ricky Ponting's record for runs in a year


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The Independent Online

Michael Clarke's inspired century at the Melbourne Cricket Ground today ticked off another milestone for Australia's high-flying captain but was also a stunning riposte to critics who had suggested he should never have been selected.

Having suffered a hamstring injury in the first Test in Hobart, Clarke was given until the last minute to prove his fitness and only announced himself ready to take on Sri Lanka on the morning of the second Test.

Meanwhile, 22-year-old seamer Mitchell Starc, who is 100 per cent fit and was desperate to play, was rested despite a five-wicket haul that helped the hosts secure victory in Tasmania.

Pundits and former players cried double standards. Clarke, 31, who is a selector himself, simply put his head down to score 106 and surpass Ricky Ponting as his country's most prolific Test run-scorer in a calendar year.

The four-hour innings, including 14 boundaries, broke the hearts of Sri Lanka and helped drive Australia to a mammoth first-innings lead of 284 with two wickets remaining at the end of the second day.

"In regards to beating Ricky, in my eyes he was certainly the greatest batsman I was lucky enough to play with so to beat any record that Ricky holds is very special that's for sure," said Clarke after scoring his fifth century in the year. "Numbers have never really bothered me too much. It's nice to be making runs and leading by example as one of the leaders in the team and the captain.

"To me, it's about winning games. If I am helping this team have success then I feel like that's part of my job."

Clarke's 22nd Test century made him fourth on the all-time list with 1,595 runs for the year but he is not likely to get another chance to reel in Mohammad Yousuf (1,788), Viv Richards (1,710) or Graeme Smith (1,656) this year.

Australia may not need a second innings to wrap up the Test and take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series, so Clarke was disappointed not to have made more runs after being dismissed slashing an edge to the slips. That also broke his perfect record in 2012 of going on to make double-tons every time he has passed the 100 mark.

"I thought it was a poor shot, especially at that time, we'd just seen off the second new ball so it was probably the best time to bat. It was a shame for the next couple of guys also as we lost three wickets quite quickly together," added Clarke, who also holds the record as the first man to hit four double-centuries in a calendar year.

"I guess with regard to my form it's about enjoying this time and making the most of it because there'll come a time where you nick the first few and get a couple of ducks."

Clarke, backed up admirably by Mike Hussey in recent Tests, also brought the best out of Shane Watson on day two, with the all-rounder hitting 83 in a welcome return to form.

The pair put on a record fourth-wicket partnership of 194 but Watson was left to rue a missed opportunity to post a century after he was caught by Thilan Samaraweera off the bowling of Dhammika Prasad.

Running total: How Clarke made history

3 Jan: v India Sydney 329*

13 Jan: v India Perth 18

24 Jan: v India Adelaide 210 & 37

7 Apr: v West Indies, Bridgetown 73 & 6

15 Apr: v W Indies Port of Spain 45 & 15

23 Apr: v W Indies Roseau 24 & 25

9 Nov: v South Africa Brisbane259*

22 Nov: v S Africa Adelaide230 & 38

30 Nov: v S Africa Perth 5 & 44

14 Dec: v Sri Lanka Hobart 74 & 57*

26 Dec: v Sri Lanka Melbourne106

Total runs for 2012: 1,595

*not out innings