Michael Clarke set a benchmark in Test cricket that surpasses even the great Don Bradman’s best years when he stroked his fourth double century of 2012 with a stunning, unbeaten 224 against South Africa.
Clarke’s brilliant knock drove Australia to a mammoth first-day total of 482 for five in the second Test, but it was as recently as January last year that a home crowd booed him as he walked on to the field during a barren patch. Yesterday, he had 16,500 people on their feet applauding him at the Adelaide Oval for becoming the first batsmen to ever score four double centuries in a calendar year.
The Australia captain has now scored a combined 483 runs in two innings without getting out against South Africa, the world’s No 1-ranked team.
The 31-year-old Clarke started the year with a career-high knock of 329 not out at Sydney and 210 at Adelaide in January against India. His two double centuries against South Africa take him past the usually incomparable Bradman, who scored three double hundreds in an Ashes series in England in 1930. While Bradman’s Test average of 99.94 is out of every modern batsman’s reach, Clarke certainly deserves credit for his form since assuming the captaincy from Ricky Ponting after the 2011 World Cup.
He has scored one-third of his 21 Test centuries since then, and turned all of his hundreds into big innings this year. “There’s certainly no secret, a lot of luck goes a long way, that’s for sure,” said Clarke, who wasn’t drawn into making any comparisons with Bradman. “Again, I use the words of [Shane Warne] that he told me a long time ago, that the better the bowling the more positive you’ve got to be.”
Clarke was a brash youngster when he scored 151 on Test debut against India in 2004, making a quick name for himself in a team containing some of the best players of the modern era. But the public grew tired of his penchant for fast cars, fashion statements and model girlfriends when he failed to live up to talents.
Until he smashed his career-high 329 not out against India in January, his highest Test score had been 168. Since that innings against India, he has scored a power of runs and turned his image around. “When you look at the innings I’ve made big scores, it’s the counter-attack, it’s the being positive, it’s playing my natural game and there’s risk there,” Clarke explained of his make-or-break approach. “As Graeme [Smith] and AB [de Villiers] reminded me a few times today I had a lot of (luck), there’s no doubt about that but you need it in this game.”
Clarke hit 36 boundaries and a six on day one at Adelaide, and only gave the South Africans a couple of half-chances.