Man of the day

When Michael Clarke suggested Australia could still win the series at the presentation ceremony after losing at Lord's, there was some laughter from those who had stuck around to see the inevitable end of the second Test.

Last Updated: 01/08/13 at 20:38 Post Comment

Whether or not the tourists can yet produce a comeback of Lazarus standards during the rest of the summer remains to be seen, but the captain at least got the recovery mission off to a flying start on Thursday at Old Trafford.

Clarke's unbeaten century, Australia's long-awaited first of the series, on the opening day helped propel his team to 303-3 by the close of play.

It is not yet a big enough total to get England overly concerned, but considering their previous first-innings efforts of 215 and 128 it is at least a comprehensive step in the right direction for the Australians.

Chris Rogers' 84 helped lay the foundations and Steve Smith played his part with 70 not out, helping put on an unbroken stand of 174 for the fourth wicket with his skipper.

However it was Clarke - the one truly world-class player in the visiting ranks - that made the most telling contribution, finishing up on 125 not out.

Back issues have long plagued him, but the 32-year-old has been carrying plenty of the burden in recent times. His own form perhaps was a concern, but even more was the fact he had been in control of an Australia side that had lost six Tests in a row for the first time since 1984, resulting in the then captain Kim Hughes resigning in tears.

There were no such ideas of standing down from the New South Welshman, who arrived at the crease following the controversial dismissal of Usman Khawaja with the score at 82-2 and quickly got into his stride.

His battle with Graeme Swann was particularly enthralling - Clarke's superb footwork saw him come down the wicket to England's off-spinner on plenty of occasions, while he was rock solid - whether forward or well back - in defence.

A sedate patch in the 90s meant there was a wait until he finally reached three figures for the first time against the old rivals since taking over leadership duties from Ricky Ponting.

There wasn't any booming drive or lavish cut to get to the milestone, just a push into a vacant space at mid-wicket for an easy single. The celebrations were hardly lavish either, suggesting Clarke knew there was still work to do.

Considering he managed three triple hundreds and three doubles during a quite-unbelievable 2012, it's safe to say he knows how to go big. England, you have been warned.

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