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Clarke, Smith smash tons on rain-hit day

Australia captain battles a bad back as the duo punishes an indisciplined Indian attack to end at 517 for 7

Clarke, Smith smash tons on rain-hit day - Cricket News
Michael Clarke and Steven Smith hit hundreds on a day marred by rain and bad light.
There are few things more frustrating than rain at a delicately poised Test match. One of those things is a team showing so little fight that the balance of the game heads in only one direction. India has travelled so poorly in the last year that suggestions that it should have beaten South Africa in Johannesburg and New Zealand in Wellington are wearing thin. For a second consecutive day, one in which only 30.4 overs were possible, India was not up to scratch, and has left itself with a mountain to climb when it come out to bat.
 
Individually and collectively, Australia was brilliant. Michael Clarke, who has gone through the worst two weeks of his life, and has overcome a niggling hamstring injury to get on the park, put his body on the line for his team and country. In obvious pain thanks to a bad back that has blighted most of his career, Clarke returned to the crease on 60, having had multiple injections to manage the discomfort he was in.
 
India’s bowlers should have had little difficulty in ensuring that Clarke’s pain was made worse, ruthlessly forcing him onto the back foot and then forcing him to stretch forward against spin, but they comprehensively failed to do so. It wasn’t until Clarke was on 98 that Varun Aaron came around the stumps to test him with short stuff, and by then, it was a case of mind over matter for the batsman.
 
Clarke, who got to his 28th hundred, one that will be remembered for years to come irrespective of the manner in which the opposition failed to make him really earn it, set his team up magnificently in the company of Steve Smith. Of multiple centurions in the game, Clarke was the most understated in celebration, and though he acknowledged the generous applause afforded to him, any Phillip Hughes symbolism was kept private.
 
When play began with Australia on 354 for 6, India was in with a genuine chance of getting back into the game. Two quick wickets, and there was still hope that Australia could have been kept down to a sub-par total. Smith, however, had other plans, and showed how having a strong base of technique allowed you to improvise when needed.


 
Smith, who has become one of Australia’s most reliable batsmen, presented the full face of the bat when the ball threatened the stumps, but for a lot of the time, he was given enough width to cut and sufficient deliveries on the pads to tuck away with no risk involved.
 
When rain forced the players off the field, in one of numerous interruptions, Smith was on 98, and had plenty of time to contemplate how he might savour the moment of getting to three figures. As it turned out, Smith broke into a sprint, heading out beyond where the 30-yard circle would be in a One-Day International, and pointed his bat to the number 408 stencilled on the grass. He then emulated David Warner in looking up to the skies, giving thanks to Hughes.
 
Once Smith was past his century, his innate exuberance and sense of adventure came to the fore as Australia looked for quick runs and the possibility of setting up a declaration. India was ragged by this stage, bouncers sailing several feet over batsmen, and wide deliveries beating Wriddhiman Saha, the wicketkeeper, who had fluffed a straightforward stumping chance. Singling out Saha would be churlish, though, for Ishant Sharma (deep backward square-leg), Virat Kohli (slip) and Cheteshwar Pujara (square-leg) all dropped catches. Karn Sharma was the unlucky bowler each time, and the batsman was Smith.
 
Smith made the most of these reprieves, though, and even when the field was set back in an attempt to dry up runs, the boundaries flew off the blade. Making room to carve through cover, sweeping in front of and behind square, lofting over the bowler and wide of midwicket, Smith showed off his entire range of shots.
 
At different times in the day, it appeared as though India was awaiting the declaration more keenly than Australia, and the manner in which spirits seemed to flag on just the second day of a tour full of hope will leave Kohli and the team management with plenty to do in order to keep morale high and a sense of purpose intact.
 
When Clarke finally fell, on 128, Australia had reached 517, a score that it will be more than comfortable with. Had bad light not cut play short when it did, a declaration may have come through, with India having to face a tricky passage of play. Smith, who was unbeaten on 162, his highest Test score, might have a chance to quickly add to that on the third morning. After all, Australia is unlikely to do India any favours, and what better way to annoy a team that has been out on the field with little success than forcing the openers to dash off when a declaration is made?
 
India, through its indisciplined bowling and insipid catching, may have made things easier for Australia, but it can’t expect the favour to be returned.

Please click here to see the full scorecard and follow live ball-by-ball coverage of Australia v India from Adelaide.

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