The Ashes: The century men: Captains Alastair Cook and Michael Clarke in Test landmark

Captains of Australia and England in contrasting moods for 100th matches

Two outstanding cricketers will appear in their 100th Test match in Perth on Friday. They are the captains of England and Australia, Alastair Cook and Michael Clarke, who will approach this landmark in their sporting lives in different frames of mind but with similar anxieties.

For Clarke, the Ashes urn is so close that he could rip off its top and spray its contents round the dressing room, were that not to be sacrilege, or would be if anybody actually knew what the contents are. But he dare not think of such moments.

Though the evidence of the first two Tests would suggest otherwise, there is still scope, just, for it to slip away from him and his team. In that case, as Clarke is all too aware, Australian cricket would continue to reside in what one of its greatest former players, Adam Gilchrist, described as a world of hurt.

The Ashes Podcast: Stephen Brenkley and Tom Collomosse preview the Third Test. Listen below…

For Cook, whose men have treated the retention of the trophy as if it were nothing more than a cheap terracotta trinket to be tossed about willy-nilly, the concerns are entirely different. He may become one of the few England captains (Percy Chapman, Peter May, David Gower) to have won the Ashes and later lost them. But none of those predecessors surrendered the prize a mere 122 days after winning it.

Somehow, at a venue that has been a house of horrors for England without the relieved laughter at the end of it, he and his men have to find a way of repelling Mitchell Johnson, restoring their nerve and rediscovering their form and belief. They have offered no excuses and there are none for a side who came here as hot favourites and have frozen in the face of the rampant Johnson and his cohorts.

Clarke was in reflective pose as he mused on what lay in store. During the past few weeks there has been a perceptible shift in the way Johnson is viewed by his compatriots. If winning has helped this mood movement, it has been accompanied by the realisation that Clarke was not all they presumed and perhaps by Clarke's recognition of the man he could be.

"I've heard it before," he said. "I've heard throughout this series people say that. I can't really answer it because I don't feel any different. I have said that through my career. I remember a few years ago walking out to a Test match in Brisbane and being booed by my own crowd. Then I go make runs against India or South Africa or whoever it is and people seem to like me more.

"That doesn't mean I have changed as a person, it probably means I have scored a few more runs. I am not doing anything different at all, I am trying to be the best player I can be, I'm trying to help this team be as successful as it can be. My value of playing cricket for Australia has not changed one bit, my love of the game of cricket has not changed one bit."

Clarke was an extremely capable batsman before assuming the captaincy, now he may well be a great one. It has galvanised him: in 31 matches as captain he has scored 12 hundreds, seven fifties and has an average of 63.59, behind only Don Bradman. Clarke provided a semblance of a hint of what might have transpired, no more. "What probably has happened is that the captaincy has allowed the media to get to know me a bit more because I have to do it every second day," he said. "Maybe with the media getting to know me a bit more and in essence the public getting to know me a bit more then that has changed, but that's all."

There are plenty of similarities with Cook. Like Clarke, the England captain is the gilded batsman of his country's cricket. Like Clarke, he made a hundred in his first Test match and the route ahead was clear.

Perhaps it has all come to him so readily – never easily because opening the batting in Test cricket is not easy – but this is not his only hard time. As he recalled: "Anyone who goes back to 2010, that was a really tough time personally in my career and I came out against Pakistan at The Oval and scored a hundred there. This is obviously a tough time and the way you come through it is important."

Now, of course, he is scoring too few runs and he is captain as well. In those circumstances, something eventually has to give. Grim though it is, he has retained a sense of proportion in dealing with setbacks which ought to be helpful to England in adversity.

"I think after day three in Adelaide, it wasn't a particularly pleasant night for me," he said. "I think I've got a good perspective on what cricket is about.

"We are so desperate to put on a good performance and we are very proud of playing for England and the pride and the honour and we haven't played very well and that hurts and hurts like hell. But it is sometimes only a game of cricket and no matter how big it seems at the time it is just a game of cricket and there are other things that can be more important."

Anybody disagreeing with that is a nincompoop. It is why Cook deserves to succeed and just might. And Clarke, the tough operator who threatens Englishmen with broken arms and likes the flash things of life, recalled his first Test against India in Bangalore, to demonstrate how much it all means.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," he said. "I remember Warney presenting me with my baggy green. I remember not picking a wrong'un from Anil Kumble, the ball coming back in and hitting my glove and it shot out to gully. I was batting with Simon Katich and I just ran. Kato looked at me as if to say, 'Are you going to call?' but I just couldn't get the words out so I just kept running and getting off the mark.

"I remember calling for my baggy green on 97, because when I was a young kid sitting in the car with my dad I said to him, 'If I ever get the chance to play cricket for Australia and if I score a hundred, I want to do it wearing that baggy green cap.

"My memories are extremely fond of that day and it is funny because I always heard people saying to me as a young kid how fast time flies when you're playing cricket for Australia and here I am telling young kids the same messages that Warney and McGrath and those guys told me and it is so true." Let their hundredth matches be memorable.

Clarke and Cook: Captains compared

M J Clarke/A N Cook

99 Tests 99

Oct 2004; v India, B'lore Debut Mar 2006; v India, Nagpur

March 2011 Became captain August 2012

7,940 Runs 7,883

26 100s 25

27 50s 33

52.58 Average 47.20

329* Highest score 294

27 Ashes Tests 22

1 Ashes series victories 3

As captain

3,243 Runs 1,670

12 100s 7

7 50s 4

63.58 Average 50.60

8 Ashes Tests 7

0 Ashes series victories 1

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
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

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little