Thursday, 5 January 2012

The 300 Club's newest member

January 5th 2012, Sydney, Australia.  Michael Clarke, the Australian captain, joined an illustrious list of men as he completed the 25th score of 300+ in Australia's first innings score of 659-4, as he declared on 329*, the 14th highest individual score in Test cricket and only the 6th Australian to achieve the feat - joining countryman, Sir Donald Bradman (twice), Bob Simpson, Bob Cowper, Mark Taylor and Matthew Hayden.

Although many thought the declaration come at an odd time with many observers believing he would obviously have overtaken Mark Taylor and Donald Bradman's score of 334 and with many thinking he would have had a chance to attack Brian Lara's record of 400* on such a benign and flat SCG pitch.  Tellingly, post-innings Clarke gave the impression that the need to win the match was more important than personal milestones, he also declared when Michael Hussey had just reached 150*. Clarke can rest with the knowledge that he has scored the highest Test score at the SCG as it celebrates its centenary this year.

However, much is made of the landmark as a mythical figure that is rarely attained, it should be remembered that many of the scores come in boring draws where some teams do not even reach their second innings. 

Clarke himself was at pains to say that he had scored a better century in South Africa when his team were 37-3 and he faced down the onslaught of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel to give Australia a competitive first innings total.  Clarke himself is finding runs easier to come by now he has the captaincy, as when England toured last winter his form all but deserted him.

Clarke said the innings was a better knock, whilst this was harder only on a mental and physical scale.  And even though he has joined such an illustrious list, he would rather be remembered for that South African innings.

The same can be said of many on the list who even though they have the milestone for their career achievements all have greater moments in their lifetime.

Graham Gooch's 333 the first one I can remember witnessing in my lifetime, had a far more memorable innings of 154* at Headingley were he carried his bat against a fine West Indian bowling line-up that included Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh in their pomp.

Brian Lara has done the feat twice - 375 and 400* (both at Antigua; both I saw live) - yet his career should be remembered for the 277 he scored against Australia in Perth in 1993, an innings that set him apart from other batsmen of his era.

Virender Sehwag has also done it twice (309, 319), yet his explosive 83 off 68balls laid the foundation for India to chase down a target of 387 set by England in Chennai, 2008.

Even if Alastair Cook had achieved the milestone when he was out for 294 at Edgbaston, he would more than likely be remembered for his immense 227* at Brisbane, or the century he scored against Pakistan at the Oval which saved his Test position and led to him breaking all manner of records on the subsequent Ashes tour.

Odd also when you look at the list, how many of the players who have the accolade can be deemed one-day specialists - Sehwag (twice), Chris Gayle (twice, 317 & 333) and Sanath Jayasuriya (340).  And you add Matthew Hayden (380) the sheer finesse of those men is formidable.

Yet Clarke can be deemed one of the more elegant players to hold the special 300 club distinction along with Mahela Jayawardene (374) and Younis Khan (313).

It is a fuss to be made over, yet like Clarke is able to admit.  He would rather be remembered for winning a test series against a competitive opponent than a personal achievement.

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