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26.12.2012 21:59 EST
Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, MCG, 2nd day:-
Clarke surpasses Ponting as SL wilt.
(The Report by Daniel Brettig at the MCG)
December 27, 2012
Lunch Australia 3 for 238 (Warner 62, Watson 60*, Clarke 56*) lead Sri Lanka 156 by 82 runs
Michael Clarke surpassed Ricky Ponting's record for the most runs in a calendar year by an Australian batsman as the captain and his deputy Shane Watson sapped the spirit of a wounded Sri Lanka on the second morning of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.
Losing the left-arm paceman Chanaka Welegedara to an apparent hamstring strain, the visitors did their cause further harm by spurning a stumping chance from Clarke and a slips catch from Watson as the session ticked towards lunch. Both misses arrived as Clarke edged close to the record, which he reached with an unobtrusive single in the penultimate over of the session.
Both Watson and Clarke played with restraint, and the innings shapes as a significant one for the vice-captain as he seeks to prove his worth as a genuine top order batsman after years of scores more handy than hefty. Having beaten a hasmtring strain of his own to play in Melbourne, Clarke will be after further runs to bolster his team's position, and his standing as the supreme batsman of 2012.
Resuming at 3 for 150, Clarke and Watson began cautiously, respecting the early spells of a Sri Lankan attack desperate to capitalise on the modest gains they made late on the second evening. A mere 11 runs were nudged and nodded from the day's first six overs, before the match took another turn away from the visitors.
Having already lost the wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene to a thumb fracture, Sri Lanka now winced at the sight of Chanaka Welegedara clutching his right hamstring and limping from the field. He was sent to hospital for scans while Mehela Jayawardene summoned Shaminda Eranga to complete the over.
Eranga briefly threatened to add further insult to the injury tally when he used his ankle to stop Watson's stinging straight drive, but he recovered sufficiently to keep bowling. Eranga drew nervy moments from both batsmen - Watson jamming down on a yorker that squeezed close to the stumps and Clarke showing his discomfort when trying to duck under a bouncer. But he also gifted four overthrows to Clarke when he threw wildly in the general direction of the stumps following a push down the wicket from Australia's captain.
Helped by the injury and the charity, Clarke and Watson accelerated, and a trio of milestones duly followed. First came Clarke's 50, which has been a common sight in 2012. Next came Watson's half-century, which has not. It was in fact Watson's first score of better than 50 on home soil since the 2010 Boxing Day Ashes Test, a match best forgotten by Australians. Watson then was a makeshift opening batsman; now he is a No. 4 of considerable destructive potential.
Finally, as the clock ticked towards lunch, Clarke passed Ponting's runs record. It was not a mark reached without some palpitations offering Sri Lanka their best chances of the morning. Still needing two runs, he advanced somewhat hazily down the wicket to Rangana Herath, misread the line and the lack of turn, and was fortunate that Kumar Sangakkara was unsighted as the ball passed between Clarke's legs, precluding a clean take and a stumping.
Later in the same over Watson offered a simpler opportunity to Jayawardene at slip, his cut eluding the hands of the Sri Lankan captain. Clarke calmed down sufficiently to push the single that took him past Ponting, acknowledging the warm applause of the day two crowd with a wave of his bat. He will be looking for more after lunch.


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