Clarke and the art of sporting declarations
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On Saturday, Michael Clarke declared Australia's first innings closed at 450/5 on the second day of the first Test against Sri Lanka. The total was healthy, but it wasn't going to leave the opposition week-kneed in apprehension. With rains forecast for the duration of the Test, giving his bowlers the time to bowl SL out twice was Clarke's priority. The alternative scenario -- Australia continuing on to a truly mammoth score but not having the time to enforce the win -- would not have been catastrophic for Clarke's side either. Australia would still have had the momentum going into the second Test and after all SL haven't ever won a Test Down Under.
The sporting declaration is fast becoming something of a Clarke specialty, the proximity to a landmark or underdog stature of opponents notwithstanding.In the Sydney Test against India in January, he had declared while on 329. Australia won with more than a day to spare.
In November against South Africa, the No. 1 Test side, Clarke (on 259 and within sight of his second 300 of 2012) declared with 68 overs left on the final day of the first Test.
The lead was only around 100, but SA suddenly found themselves hanging grimly on, with five batsmen dismissed and one out injured. Another declaration in the second Test and another fourth innings scramble got Australia even closer.
This time just two wickets stood between them and the win. SA won the third and final Test, but Clarke's bold declarations could easily have won Australia the series..
The weather might ensure a draw in the Test against SL, but to appreciate the effects of a timely declaration, one only has to look at the fecklessness of a botched one.
And to see one such, one only had to wait for events at Nagpur.