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Clarke breaks two-year century drought

india Updated: Dec 04, 2006 18:29 IST

Michael Clarke unloaded some personal baggage on Monday when he reached his third Test century in Australia's second Ashes cricket Test against England.

Clarke's innings of 124, formed in partnerships of 98 with Adam Gilchrist and 118 with Shane Warne on the fourth day, came a full two years after his second century and at a time when the first bright promise of his Test career had begun to wane. Clarke had an outstanding start to his tenure in the Australian Test side, scoring 150 on debut and 144 in his first home Test against New Zealand, exuding the potential to become one of the team's finest batsman and, in time, its captain.

But after a period of more modest achievement, including a moderate run of form in England, he had to rely on an injury to Shane Watson to win his place at No. 6 in the Australian order for the first two Tests of the Ashes series.

He made a tidy 56 in Australia's first innings of 602 at Brisbane and took his opportunity on Monday, in an innings spanning 319 minutes, to show the Australian selectors their faith in him, even in proxy, was not misplaced.

He played with restrained elegance throughout his innings, drawing on lessons he learned in England to curb his strokeplay and emphasise patience, particularly as his century approached. When he finally reached his hundred, with a single from James Anderson and with his forearms aching with cramps, he was immediately flooded with relief that his long wait for his third century had ended.

"I wasn't too nervous, I don't think, in the 90s," Clarke said. "It happened pretty quick. I think there was a period between 75 and 85 where I felt a little bit bogged down, when I couldn't get off strike. But when it happened I was pleased to get my first century against England. I had to work that hard to get through it."

Clarke was intensely aware of the significance of his innings on Monday and of the message it sent to the Australian selectors, who will shortly consider the composition of their side for the third Test at Perth beginning on December 14, 2006.

"I think any hundred I score for Australia is a great innings for me and certainly I won't be forgetting this one quickly," Clarke said. "I'm very happy and I think why I'm so happy is the extra pressure I put on myself.

"I knew my opportunities were going to be limited. I was given a chance in Brisbane and obviously here in Adelaide and I had to perform, to score some runs to have any case to put to the selectors. At least I've given myself a chance now."

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