Came to the realisation last night that Michael Clarke is going to be a very good captain; his innings so far has endured some fearsome spells of bowling from Dale Steyn and, apart from Shaun Marsh, teammates unable to cope with the conditions. It’s the kind of back to the wall innings that is needed out of a leader and Clarke well and truly led from the front last night.
Clarke has already shown that he is determined to put his own mark on the side demonstrating a thinking outside of the box mentality with field placements and bowling changes in Sri Lanka; never willing to let the game drift and never afraid to try something different; Mike Hussey with 2 wickets in the test series an indication of the New South Welshman’s ability to ring changes that many would not consider.
His batting has also shifted from the disappointment of the previous 12 months. His second inning 60 off 80 balls, on a turner in Galle, put the match out of Sri Lanka’s grasp and was a considerable chunk of Australia’s final total of just 210. His 3rd test knock of 112, on the fifth day, ensured a draw, and series win, but was compiled on a deck that was more reminiscent of a 2nd or 3rd day pitch as opposed to a final day deck.
But last night’s effort cannot be dismissed so easily; a brutal over from Steyn early on and a mid pitch exchange demonstrated the South Africans eagerness to get under the new captains skin. But Clarke was not flustered, the introduction of Kallis allowed Clarke to get moving; driving the all rounder through the covers frequently and also prepared to go square when the ball was short of a length.
His century came off just 108 balls; his skill level and execution were streets ahead of anyone else in the order; the final move now for Clarke is to reclaim his number 4 position in the order. Ricky Ponting is starting to look all of his 36 years of age; a late moving Steyn full ball his downfall last night; but Clarke must now assume the responsibility of rebuilding an innings with his side only 1 or 2 wickets down. The time has come for Ponting to either slide down to 5 or 6 in the order.
Regardless of batting positions and future line-ups; Clarke’s effort, against a world class bowler in Steyn and an environment conducive to the paceman, was pure class. Michael Clarke is going to be a very good test captain, displaying an unconventional streak in regards to tactics and providing a fresh approach when dealing with the player group; a valuable commodity in a team that is set to lose experienced players in the coming seasons.
The King is dead, long live the King!