Adelaide Test, Australia v India – Day Two: “Do your job”

As the sun rose over the Adelaide Oval, the quiet question was being asked: will Michael Clarke return from his back injury to bat in Australia’s first innings?

The role of Australian captain obliged him to. Leaders only miss play as an absolute last resort and the idea of captaining from the rooms is simply jarring. Clarke prefers to demonstrate by action rather than instruction.

But his back has plagued him for months and continuing to bat would only worsen his condition. Standing at the crease would not be as inspirational and selfish as many contended. If Clarke seriously injured himself, he would only disrupt his side’s preparations and handicap its batting efforts.
Then again, for the last two weeks he has been working under truly unprecedented conditions. A century would mean for more than just runs and a potential victory.

Despite being muffled with painkillers, the pain in Clarke’s back was clearly hampering his technique. The follow through on his cut shot did not return all the way to its normal height. His footwork was tighter and he was uncomfortably stiff backed running between the wickets. His pull shots were plainly agonising him; his face flared as he twisted onto the back foot.

History – or, rather, the future – will judge the wisdom of the 33 year old Clarke’s decision to return to bat. Steve Waugh, after all, damaged his game late in his career by playing with a badly injured calf at The Oval in the 2001 Ashes Series. Waugh was trying to inspire his side to win dead rubbers – Clarke played with even greater impetus. He has represented the grief felt by the international cricketing community following Phil Hughes’ death and the courage needed to endure it together. He felt the need to see it through.

Clarke may not have looked at ease but he reached a hard fought, momentous century with a single down to fine leg halfway through a rain spoiled afternoon. Steve Smith, his partner since the start of the day, had looked his unruffled best throughout.
Smith, Clarke and David Warner are the most efficient of the Australian top order batsmen: their timing is excellent, their footwork practised and concise and their placement is deliberate and uncontainable. By contrast, Chris Rogers and Shane Watson are visibly slow to get going: balls are missed, half shots create doubt and both are seemingly self-preservative until they become comfortable.
Smith’s red hot form was enhanced by a perfect blend of patience and efficiency. He reached an even century off a merely steady 171 balls yet just 48 of those were scoring shots.

If there’s anything that will detract from Clarke’s and Smith’s centuries, it will be the frailty of the attack they were facing.
Virat Kohli, in his first Test in charge, is clearly still uncertain in the absence of MS Dhoni. He had the chance to attack Clarke at his weakest early by bowling short but instead instructed Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Varun Aaron to keep the ball up to an off-side field. Australia will never be beaten at home by a conservative side, particularly one in a transitionary stage. Leg spinning debutant Kran Sharma was called upon after just five overs. For Aussie fans, the memory of Ishant Sharma lethally targeting the Australian top order in the 2008 series is fading fast.

Nearly two weeks ago, Michael Clarke whispered “Do your job” to himself as he delivered his press statement on Phil Hughes to the media. That job has been done. Now we will wait and see its cost.

Australia 6/473
David Warner 145
Steve Smith 142*
Michael Clarke 109*
Mitch Marsh 41
Mohammed Shami 2/112
Varun Aaron 2/136

About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.


  1. G’day Callum,
    Well played. You did your job.
    MJ Clarke’s return to the field surprised me.
    A bad back can’t be fixed by mental strength.

    But still.
    “Australia will never be beaten at home by a conservative side,” -good line.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Callum in what is a unique test match ( thank goodness ) Clarke , Smith and
    Warner have been amazing , mental strength , respect . India’s bowling , conservative nature and lack of oomph stood out as well

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