Melbourne – Michael Clarke’s inspired century at the Melbourne Cricket Ground today ticked off another milestone for Australia’s high-flying captain, but was also a stunning riposte to critics who had suggested he should never have been selected.
Having sustained a hamstring injury in the first Test in Hobart, Clarke was given until the last minute to prove his fitness and only announced himself ready to take on Sri Lanka on the morning of the second Test.
Meanwhile, young seamer Mitchell Starc, 100% fit and champing at the bit, was rested despite a five-wicket haul that helped drive the hosts to victory in Hobart.
Pundits and former players cried double standards. Clarke, a selector himself, simply put his head down to score 106 and surpass Ricky Ponting as his country’s most prolific Test run-scorer in a calendar year.
The four-hour innings of 14 boundaries, while not without chances, broke the hearts of Sri Lanka and helped drive Australia to a mammoth first innings lead of 278.
“With 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 31-year-old Clarke told reporters after notching his fifth ton for the year.
“Numbers have never really bothered me too much. 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. I think it’s really important that the captain is doing that.
“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.”
Clarke’s 22nd Test century made him fourth on the all-time list, with 1 595 runs for the year, but he is unlikely to get another chance to reel in Mohammad Yousuf (1 788), Viv Richards (1 710) or Graeme Smith (1 656) this year.