Australian Test captain Michael Clarke has announced his retirement from international cricket following his team's defeat to England at Trent Bridge that helped the English team regain the Ashes. Clarke's last Test will be the fifth and the final Test of the ongoing Ashes series that will take place at the Oval in London.
The news of Clarke's retirement was annouced on Twitter by Cricket Australia immediately after the end of the fourth Test which Australia lost by an innings and 78 runs.
BREAKING: Michael Clarke has announced his retirement from international cricket.— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) August 8, 2015
Time looked to be running out for Clarke after he failed again with the bat on Friday as his team slid towards a humiliating Ashes defeat. The Australian newspaper said Clarke had been told there would be no place for him in the side after the fifth Test at the Oval and so Clarke had decided to retire from Test cricket.
Clarke stopped playing Twenty20 cricket for his country after taking over the Test captaincy from Ricky Ponting in 2011 and played his final one-day match for Australia in the World Cup final triumph earlier this year. On Friday, leaden-footed and ill at ease at the crease, Clarke eked 13 grudging runs from 37 deliveries before being caught in the slips off seamer Mark Wood on day two of the fourth Test. His wicket all but ensured England will be spared from batting again at Trent Bridge, while hastening an inevitable 3-1 series defeat for the outclassed tourists.
The scratchy 13 followed Clarke's first innings knock of 10, which ended with an absurd swipe at a loose Stuart Broad delivery when his team desperately needed a cautious captain's knock rather than a free-wheeling assault befitting a tail-end slogger.
Clarke now averages 16.71 for the series, the worst performer among Australia's recognised batsmen who have played more than two Tests in the series. Were Clarke to drill harder into the figures, he might note an unedifying similarity to the dismal returns Ponting managed in his last Test series as captain, when he averaged 16.14 from eight innings in the 2010/11 Ashes series.
Though 34, badly out of form and trailing 2-1 in the series, Clarke was strident on the eve of the Nottingham Test that the Ashes would not be his swan-song, win or lose. However, that defiance has been dismissed in Australia where the belief he retains the right to choose the timing of his exit is fast evaporating.
"Michael Clarke is finished in Test cricket. It is obvious and it is now a matter of managing him out of the game," cricket writer Peter Lalor said in The Australian.
With each consecutive failure in the series, Clarke's determination to prolong his Test career has seemed more indulgence than necessity. His demotion from fourth to fifth in the batting order at Nottingham was rationalised as part of a selectors' gambit to add depth to a flaky batting order, but in essence appeared an act of protection for a fallen great.
As Clarke has laboured, his understudy Steve Smith has also come undone since guiding Australia to a victory at Lord's with a sparkling century. The faltering partnership between a captain and his deputy should be familiar to Clarke, who also struggled with the bat during the ill-fated 2010/11 series when heir apparent to the under-fire Ponting.
Australia reveres its Test captains like few other cricketing nations and Clarke retains the special affections of a public that was rocked by last year's death of Phillip Hughes but grateful for Clarke's dignity in the grieving of his team mate.
Even as Clarke prodded and poked for his 13 at Trent Bridge, he surpassed Matthew Hayden to be fourth on Australia's list of Test run-scorers, a milestone of a master batsman all but lost in the turmoil of an Ashes capitulation. The men above him -- Ponting, Allan Border and Steve Waugh -- were all captain-batsmen whose retirements would ultimately see their teams move onwards and upwards.
Australia's return to the top Test ranking last year, however brief, owed much to Clarke's astute captaincy and brilliance with the bat.