What’s not to like about Michael Clarke – apart from the tattoos and a tendency to get out just before major intervals?
At the end of day two of the Sydney Test, he is 251 not out (31 x 4s and 1 x 6) and all day his grin was as broad as his bat.
Clarke has grown several inches taller under the weight of the captaincy which may account for the fact that he did not look like giving way to any last-over-of-the-day lapse in concentration and therefore will reappear from that grand old pavilion on day three as fresh as a daisy with enough time in the game to amass a mammoth score without being in anyway selfish.
Clarke is already the highest scoring Australian at the SCG in a Test and has in his sights the 287 notched up by Worcester and England’s R.E. (Tip) Foster (shown right tucking one away to leg) in the First Test of the 1903 series.
Foster, like Clarke, batted that day at Number 5, came in at 73 for 3 (not dissimilar to Clarke entering the fray at 37 for 3).
Foster ended his first day at the crease on 73; Clarke on 47; but the English had laboured all of for three hours in this the first phase of his innings.
Next morning, with the wicket playing faster, ’Tip’ moved up a gear to reach his first century. There followed a collapse at the other. Foster, with Relf as his partner counter attacked, scoring 94 between lunch and tea.
At Relf’s departure, Foster was joined by Rhodes in a record for the last wicket of 130 in 66 minutes before being caught by Noble off Saunders 13 short of the triple.
However, when Australia began their second innings 292 runs behind the visitors, Foster’s great innings was eclipsed by one from Victor Trumper who, batting at Number 5 (quelle surprise!) made a sensational 185.
Although time-bound readers of this blog will not have seen Victor Trumper bat, it is just possible that they will have come close to that experience if they have been fortunate enough to see Michael Clarke bat today.
Light and quick of foot. Check. Wonderful front foot driving. Check. Deft cuts. Check. Savage cuts. Check. Infectious enjoyment. Check. Mastery. Check. The ability to make the sunshine on a cloudy day. Check.
Trumper reached his hundred in 94 minutes.
The written-off Ricky Ponting wrote himself back in with an innings of 134, which on any other day would have deserved a piece to itself, but as Foster discovered nearly 110 years ago, even a very good innings can be totally eclipsed.
One supposes that the only thing that could possibly trump (sorry) a big-triple from Clarke would be Tendulka scoring that hundredth hundred.
If Third Man was MS Dhoni, he’d bat the little master at number 5 to make sure.
N.B. Prior to Clar*e’s innings today, an Australian’s top Test score at the SCG was Doug Walter’s 242 v the West Indies in 1969 ,batting – you guessed it – number 5.
* Thanks GT.