Brent Read, in the Australian, 13 April 2012, where adifferent title was deployed: “Clarke evokes warne to find a way to win“
FIND a way to win, Michael Clarke instructed his players, and find a way they did yesterday in the gathering gloom at Kensington Oval to achieve one of the great victories in Australian Test cricket history.
This was a triumph Norman Vincent Peale would have delighted in. A Test match win, like success generally, has many fathers usually but this one over the West Indies in the first of three Tests for the Frank Worrell Trophy series had only one – the power of positive thinking.
Before this victory – as special, Clarke said, as any in his career – could so dramatically be enacted on the field, it first of all had to be conceived and it is little short of astounding that any Australian would even have thought of it midway through the fourth day, with the West Indies needing only two more Australian wickets to take a massive lead of more than 150 runs into the second innings.
But Clarke thought of it, the thought growing clearer in his mind with each valuable run scored by tailenders Ryan Harris, Ben Hilfenhaus and Nathan Lyon.
Then, as the idea crystalised, he had to sell it to his players.
It’s not that they were in any way opposed to chasing an utterly improbable win but rather that they simply had assumed, as Harris had, that they were fighting for an honourable draw.
Clarke’s mind went back to the 2006 Ashes series when Shane Warne had convinced him at the corresponding stage of the Adelaide Test that Australia, still struggling to get within cooee of England’s massive 6-551 (dec), was going to win the match.
“And I was trying to work out how,” Clarke recalled. “At best, surely, we’d get a draw but he had no doubt in his mind.
“For me as a young player, I thought ‘Right-o, that’s my attitude!’ A few years on and I’m in the change rooms telling the boys we’re going to win this Test match. Hopefully a few of them believe me the way I believed Warney.”
The “how” revolved around making a dramatic and utterly unexpected declaration 43 runs behind the West Indian total.
After that, Clarke was pretty much ad-libbing. Obviously his bowlers had to get 10 wickets and in double-quick time on a pitch that had nothing quick about it.
And then there was the small matter of chasing down whatever lead the West Indies built, on a wicket with more rough and hazards than a British Open at Turnberry. “That was the main thing I said to the boys today. I know it’s tough, I know we’re tired, I know there’s going to be issues with the foot marks, I know it’s going to be a tough run chase but find a way,” said Clarke.
The search began. It began when Harris, still stiff and sore from his career-high 68 the day before, slipped his ninth delivery through the defences of Narsingh Deonarine to deny the West Indies the unruffled start they needed yesterday after resuming at 5-71.
From there he and the other pacemen steadily worked their way down the Windies batting order, ticking them off one by one.
Most ticked off of all was Darren Sammy, who was nominally bowled by Shane Watson but whose dismissal was more an own goal, with the West Indies captain accidentally kicking the ball into his stumps.
Having started the rout, Harris finished it, rattling the stumps of Kemar Roach to end his brave resistance on 25. The West Indies all out for 148, leaving Australia a victory target of 192.
Technically they had 63 overs in which to score them but Clarke knew that was a nonsense. Nightfall doesn’t creep up in the Caribbean.
It comes down like a theatre curtain on a booing crowd and having strived so mightily to get into a winning position, Clarke and his players didn’t want their fate decided by an umpire’s light meter.
But planning batting tactics was like playing three-dimensional chess against Spock. It was not just a case of working out the pacing of the run chase. There was, too, the speed of the setting sun to be factored in, and also the tardiness of the West Indies, whose inventive time-wasting knew no bounds.
When before, for instance, has a player ever appealed against too much light, as square leg fieldsman Devendra Bishoo did yesterday when a reflection from an advertising hoarding pained his eyes?
Clarke’s plan was to go slowly until tea to see off the new ball and then attack, realising there would probably be no more than 48 overs of light. But Ed Cowan almost overdid it, using up 10 full overs all on his own in scoring 11 before the interval. And when he tried to accelerate after tea he’d forgotten how, hitting under and over so many cut shots it seemed he was trying to fan the ball to the fence.
No one took much notice of who the bowler was when Watson was caught in the deep for a muscular 52 but then the little offspinner from Guyana, Deonarine, followed up with the crucial wickets of Cowan (34), Ricky Ponting (14) and Clarke (6) to single-handedly have Australia wobbling at 5-140.
To the rescue strode Mike Hussey, whose cool head, canny reverse sweeps and two towering sixes off Deonarine carried Australia to the cusp of victory before he was bowled by Roach for 32.
So well did he bat that Mr Cricket deserved the honour of hitting the winning run. And yet in a way it was appropriate the match should finish with Hilfenhaus and Harris out there together. With bat and ball and then with bat again, they delivered an epic victory to Australia, fittingly with a harem-scarem last run by Hilfenhaus that would require one last visit upstairs to the video umpire.
“The spirit and the character … of the guys in the change room is what drives you, I guess, as a captain to make a bold decision, to declare when I declared,” said Clarke, wrapping up. “There wasn’t one bit of fear of losing that Test match – it wasn’t spoken about.”