Clarke, Warner star for Oz

2014-12-10 10:08
Michael Clarke (AP Photo)

Adelaide - Captain Michael Clarke defied a back injury and grief over the death of Phillip Hughes to post an inspirational century as Australia took charge of the first Test against India on Wednesday.

Clarke, who was supported by Steve Smith's unbeaten 162, retired hurt on 60 on day one but after painkilling injections he returned to compile 128 in one of his bravest knocks.

The skipper's 28th Test ton, on a rain-disrupted second day in Adelaide, came in his first innings since Hughes was tragically killed by a blow to the head while batting in Sydney last month.

The centuries by Clarke and Smith, together with David Warner's ton on Tuesday, left the hosts on 517 for seven and in command against a bedraggled Indian attack.

Clarke was out late in the day for 128 off 163 balls with 18 fours, and he put on 163 runs for the seventh wicket with Smith.

Batting partner Smith continued his growing stature in the Australia set-up with his highest Test score, his fifth Test hundred and his fourth in his last 15 Test innings.

It was tough going for the tourists in the gloom with only 30.4 overs possible in between the day's three lengthy rain delays.

Clarke made his surprise return to the crease at the outset and despite batting in discomfort, he provided dependable support for Smith after the clatter of three wickets in the last five overs on day one.

The captain grimaced and yelped in pain as he twisted his torso to play some shots, and his running between the wickets was constrained. But he and Smith gradually took control, hitting out late in the day as India faltered.

Clarke brought up his ton with a single off his pads, taking off his helmet and kissing its emblem in a subdued celebration, to the acclaim of an admiring crowd.

- 'Significant injury' -

The captain played a leading role in the days after Hughes's death, in which he read a tearful tribute at the funeral and was one of the pallbearers.

The Australian skipper has earned a reputation for his batting heroics in adversity. Last March he batted on with a fractured left shoulder in an unbeaten 161 to help his team to a 2-1 series victory over South Africa in Cape Town.

Clarke, who has a long history of back trouble, only made the Adelaide Test after passing a late fitness test for recurring hamstring trouble.

Team physio Alex Kountouris said he was struggling with a "significant back injury."

"This is his right lower back. This is his old injury, what he's had in the past. I don't think it's directly related to his hamstring, because it's the other side," Kountouris said before the start of Wednesday's play.

"We believe it's related to his old disc injuries. With that comes a lot of muscle spasms and other things that cause pain."

Smith sealed his determined century off the first ball after lunch, clipping off his pads for two.

He jogged away from the wicket and pointed towards the '408' - Hughes's Test cap number - painted on the playing surface, before raising his bat and looking skywards in his own salute to the batsman.

Smith then shared another long hug with batting partner Clarke, who also was there to embrace Warner when the opener reached his century on day one.

In a Test of high emotion, there was another poignant moment when the crowd broke into applause when the Australian total reached 408.

Smith's assured century again highlighted the rapid development of the 25-year-old right-hander.

It comes after his man-of-the-series performances in last month's one-day series win over South Africa.

Smith took 23 Test innings to reach his maiden century. Now, he has five Test tons -- four of them in his past 15 innings.

India's fielding deteriorated late in the day with Smith dropped three times and a mis-stumping by Wriddhiman Saha, while Clarke was also put down before he was caught by Cheteshwar Pujara.

Read more on:    michael clarke  |  cricket


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