Clarke crowns dazzling year with another ton
Skipper Michael Clarke further embossed his passing of Ricky Ponting’s national calendar year scoring record with a ton against Sri Lanka in the second Melbourne Test on Thursday.
Clarke, in the finest form of his career, hit a fine leg boundary off the last ball before mid-afternoon drinks to raise his 22nd Test century as Australia tightened the screws on the hapless Sri Lankans on the second day of the Test.
He was out soon after for 106 when he was caught by rival skipper Mahela Jayawardene in the slips off Shaminda Eranga.
Clarke took his total runs for this year to 1,595 at 106.33 in Australia’s final Test match for 2012. In his 88th Test, he has scored 6,910 runs at 52.74.
“Numbers have never really bothered me too much,” Clarke said.
“It’s nice to be making runs and leading by example as one of the leaders in the team and the captain of the team.
“But 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.
“As long as we keep winning that’s my priority.”
It was 31-year-old Clarke’s first century in a Melbourne Boxing Day Test, the showpiece game of the Australian cricket season.
“It’s nice to get that monkey off my back to get my first hundred here. I’ve always loved playing cricket at the MCG, it’s a beautiful ground and I love Melbourne so its nice to finally have made a hundred here,” he said.
“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.”
The Australian captain began the Melbourne Test needing 56 runs to break Ponting’s previous national record of 1,544 runs in a calendar year.
It continued an extraordinary year for the right-hander, who scored 329 not out against India in Sydney last January, along with three double centuries and his latest ton.
The Australian skipper, who was in doubt ahead of the Boxing Day Test with a hamstring injury, had a let-off in Rangana Herath’s 17th over when Kumar Sangakkara missed a tough stumping chance on 54.
He was also dropped by Tillakaratne Dilshan on five late on Wednesday’s opening day.
But while Clarke was savouring his 22nd Test century, vice-captain Shane Watson was reflecting on another missed opportunity to score his third century in his 38th Test match.
Watson’s patient 265-minute vigil at number four ended when he pulled Dhammika Prasad straight to Thilan Samaraweera lying in wait at deep mid-wicket and he trudged head down from the ground.
It was the 19th time Watson has failed to convert a Test half-century into three-figures.
But Clarke was unconcerned by Watson’s dismissal and praised his subdued knock.
“I think it’s very exciting the way Watto (Watson) played. He showed a lot of discipline in his shot selection, and even on the ball he got out... as his captain I’m not disappointed with his shot selection,” Clarke said.
“There’s been a lot of talk about Watto’s statistics with regards to the hundreds scored and he’s certainly spoken openly about that, so for me it’s about Watto playing his best cricket.
“If he continues to play the way he did today and show that patience and discipline, I have no doubt he’ll score plenty of hundreds for Australia.”