Despite the English drawing close to victory, Australia can take much heart and inspiration from their dignified efforts on a testing day four.
For a moment, Australia’s hopes of forcing a draw looked increasingly likely with Michael Clarke finally emerging out of his slumber of wretched form. With the support from the inform Mike Hussey, the pair’s partnership instilled nerves into the English camp for the first time this series. But then, who else ripped the heart and soul out of Australia? The man of the moment, Kevin Pietersen of course. He dismissed Clarke in the final over of an intriguing day to leave a bitter taste in the Australians and in particular, Clarke’s mouth.
Clarke’s fluent knock of 80 mirrored his greatest innings in Test cricket, where he scored a courageous and memorable century under significant pressure at Lords, in 2009. A striking feature to Clarke’s game is his willingness to to use his feet to the spinners. He is perhaps the most accomplished player of spin in Australia. On a day when Swann forced batsman to second guess and had Ponting fooled for spin, Clarke counter-attacked Swann’s dominance with aggressive yet measured footwork down the wicket but also back in his crease. Like his fellow partner out in the middle, Clarke recaptured his touch by positive intent, not by a timid and a defensive approach. Hussey was firmly touched on the shoulder by the selectors to get a move along with his batting before the series, and it seems Clarke took note of Hussey’s sudden transformation of form.
Rain will likely be Australia’s savior due to the long batting tail and Marcus North’s ongoing struggles with the bat. Perhaps, North should take a leaf out of Hussey and Clarke’s altered and new found approach to batting. Another failure tomorrow and North will say his farewells to the Australian’ dressing room and Test cricket for good. While, the Australian supporters will say “finally”, as North begins his lone walk back to the pavilion.
Like life, cricket can be unforgiving and not always rewarding to the brave. Just as the vocal cynics were rather absurdly calling the efforts of Ponting’s men as “un-Australian”, Simon Katich led the united and stubborn Aussie front on one leg, and Hussey and Clarke fought admirably to the last over of play. For Clarke, his innings may go down in vein, but his brave efforts will surely not be forgotten by the Australian selectors nor his harsh critics. Perhaps, this plucky fight-back may just instill some much needed belief into the Australian line-up.