(Blogger’s note – something amazing happened in the cricket last week. 3 players scored centuries, including an incredible 329 not out from our captain, Michael Clarke. Vindication, redemption, triumph – it’s all there…
I felt that this needed some kind of recognition in this forum, but as I didn’t see a single ball of his innings, adding to the disappointments of missing an epic AFL Grand Final, NBA Finals Series and a WrestleMania featuring The Rock (!), I wasn’t exactly the right person for the job.
Enter again, ‘West Australian’ sports journalist Craig O’Donoghue, who definitely knows his footy, better than anyone I know, and is into his cricket too!
Here’s his take on what transpired at the SCG last week.)
What’s the best pizza you’ve ever eaten? Who is your best friend? What is the best holiday you’ve ever experienced?
They’re all relatively simple questions. Now, was Michael Clarke’s 329 against India last week the best batting display by an Australian? Was it the best in test cricket history?
They’re much tougher questions and ones I’ve been asked by many people and seen many people ask their friends since Clarke’s scored his magical triple ton against India last week.
My instant reaction was – that’s one of the best performances I’ve seen, especially considering it was against India.
After all, I was at the WACA when Matthew Hayden scored 380 against Zimbabwe. They’re a cricketing minnow. India are a powerhouse. (Blogger’s note – I had my first day off teaching due to illness that day [it was legit!] and Hayden’s innings was the most pure, lethal display of hitting I have ever seen.)
But further inspection proves that generalisations should never be made when assessing or ranking greatness. If you’re going to attempt to rank super human feats, you need to do so with facts first.
I was stunned to discover how inept India’s bowling attack actually is. They have massive issues and their inability to dismiss quality batsmen or teams in the last 12 months has been disgraceful.
In three home tests against the West Indies they conceded scores of 590, 463 and 304, allowing three centuries and nine half centuries.
They played a four test series against England in England. The Poms piled on 591, 710, 544 and 474. Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen and Alistair Cook all scored double tons and Cook’s score was a whopping 294. Pietersen and Bell also scored 150 in other matches.
So, India have played 13 tests starting January 2, 2011 and finishing on January 7, 2012 and 17 opponents have scored centuries. That’s terrible.
So, as we analyse Clarke’s greatness, that has to be taken into account.
But so does the state of play when he walked onto the SCG. India, with a famous batting squad, had been bowled out for 191 and Australia was 3/37 when Clarke arrived at the crease. Try telling Clarke that 12 wickets for 228 is a brilliant batting strip!
It was the 100th test match at the SCG and no player had ever scored 300 at that ground. In fact, only three men had previously managed 250 and two of those scores happened before Sir Donald Bradman had made a test century.
But pitches change over the years. The SCG has produced more Sheffield Shield centuries than any other venue this season.
Clarke faced a torrid time early. He scored a boundary from his second ball, but played and missed his third ball and just survived the fourth. He rarely looked in trouble from there though, despite spending more than 10 hours at the crease.
He’d also captained the team in the field for 59 overs before he batted for another 155. That’s a long time to concentrate. The captain never gets the luxury of switching off in the field. It is an extraordinary feat of concentration, fitness and skill.
Only Brian Lara (400*), Mahela Jayawardene (375), Mark Taylor (334*) and Graham Gooch (333) have scored more runs than Clarke as a captain. Jayawardene and Gooch are the only other two to have done so in a winning team. That adds significant weight to Clarke’s effort.
Hayden’s 380 is the only other time an Australian has scored 300 in a winning team. All other triple tons have come in drawn matches.
Hayden’s was a brutal innings, comprising 11 sixes. Sitting in the crowd at long on, we were regularly given catching practice.
But what about the other scores of 300 across the world?
Brian Lara’s 400 appears to stand head and shoulders above anything else.
It was unbeaten. It came against an England team which re-gained the Ashes for the first time in almost 20 years against Australia just 12 months later. He captained the team and the West Indies had been comprehensively beaten in the previous three tests, getting bowled out for less than 100 twice.
(Blogger’s note – I have to intervene here as Craig and I differ greatly on this! Lara purposely and knowingly batted his team out of any hope of gaining an outcome in this instance in his selfish search for personal glory. It became about the record, not the match.)
Mahela Jayawardene scored 375 against South Africa and it took a freak delivery which kept low to dismiss him. He also kept wicket, captained the team and Sri Lanka won.
A captain’s knock
Clarke may have set a new world record if he hadn’t declared. He may also have been dismissed. We’ll never know. But his performance has clearly seen a dramatic shift in the court of public opinion.
He was an unpopular choice as captain. But scoring four tons in his first nine matches as skipper has made people think. Steve Waugh and Allan Border managed three from their first 10. Mark Taylor and Ricky Ponting had one each. Taylor also failed to score from his first two innings in charge.
So, what is the best triple ton? Sorry to disappoint you but I’ve got no idea. I’m not going to attempt to compare Clarke with Bradman or any other player who I’ve never seen. But you’ve now at least got some facts to think about when debating Clarke’s performance.
All this fact checking has got me hungry. Can someone recommend a good pizza?
Thanks for that, Craig. Love your work! Thursday’s post continues on with a cricketing focus and how sometimes, you just can’t ever win…