Australia captain Michael Clarke sets new record for runs scored in calendar year
Clarke hits 106 against Sri Lanka to pass Ricky Ponting's national milestone of 1,544
Home side reach 440-8 on day two, with Mitchell Johnson on 73, for overall lead of 284
Clarke scores his first Test century in Melbourne, while Shane Watson makes 83
Michael Clarke has big cricketing shoes to fill following the retirement of Ricky Ponting, but the Australia captain has already wiped out one of his predecessor’s records.
Clarke beat Ponting’s leading mark of 1,544 runs scored in a calendar year by an Australian batsman, set in 2003, as he made 106 on day two of the second Test against Sri Lanka.
The 31-year-old posted his 22nd Test century – still 19 behind Ponting – and his first in Melbourne as the home team reached 440-8 at stumps on Thursday for a lead of 284.
“It is nice to get that monkey off my back and get my first hundred here,” Clarke, who overcame a hamstring injury to start the match, told reporters after taking his total for 2012 to 1,595.
“In regards to beating Ricky, in my eyes he was the greatest batsman I was lucky enough to play with, so to beat any record that Ricky holds is very special.”
Ponting retired at the start of this month following the series defeat by South Africa, being Australia’s leading runscorer in all forms of cricket and the world’s second highest behind Sachin Tendulkar of India.
In a calendar year, only Pakistan’s Mohammad Yousuf (1,788), West Indian Viv Richards (1,710) and South Africa’s Graeme Smith (1,656) have scored more Test runs than Clarke.
He might not get a second chance to bat in this match, with Australia in control.
All-rounder Mitchell Johnson will seek to get the 27 runs he needs for his second Test century when he resumes his innings on day three.
Clarke and Shane Watson had put on 194 for the fourth wicket as Sri Lanka lost pace bowler Chanaka Welegedara to a hamstring injury early in the day, before a mini-collapse saw the Australians slump to 315-6.
Watson was among those to fall, being caught in the deep for 83 – meaning he has not passed three figures in the five-day game since October 2010, despite registering 19 fifties in his 38 Test appearances.
“If he continues to play the way he played today and shows that patience and that discipline I have no doubt at all that he will score plenty of hundreds for Australia,” Clarke said.
“He showed a lot of discipline in his shot selection and even the ball he got out on, as his captain, I am not disappointed with. Nine times out of 10 that will go for four or six.”
Johnson steadied the innings as he added 61 for the seventh wicket with Mike Hussey (34) and 58 for the eighth with Peter Siddle (13) before seeing out the day with Nathan Lyon (0).
Sri Lanka need to win the match to have any chance of winning the three-match series, having lost the opener by 137 runs.
The tourists, who made just 156 in Wednesday’s first innings after winning the toss and deciding to bat, were left to rue dropping Clarke on the opening day and then giving Watson two lives on Thursday.
“We let them off the hook yesterday in the evening when we had them three wickets down and today before Clarke got into his stride and then Watson after that,” said batting coach Marvin Atapattu, a former skipper of the national side.
“If we had held on to those two it would have been different, but that is the way it goes and we have got ourselves to blame.”
Meanwhile, Ponting has defended Australia’s rotation policy after first Test hero Mitchell Starc was rested for the Melbourne match, allowing Jackson Bird to make his debut.
Starc took six wickets in Hobart, five of them coming in Sri Lanka’s second innings.
“A lot of the people that are talking about it, past bowlers in particular, have got no idea of the workload of some of the guys that are playing now,” Ponting said.
“Everyone in and around the Australian team is trying to do the best thing for Australian cricket. It’s all about trying to put the best and fittest bowlers on the park every time we can.”