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Clarke bowling first was no last-minute decision

Michael Clarke and Darren Lehmann in happier times. (AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK)
Roar Pro
29th December, 2013
13

When Michael Clarke put England in to bat on the first morning of the Boxing Day Test, it was neither a mistake, nor a last minute decision.

Clarke is the kind of captain who appreciates meticulous planning, but also has the great cricketing instincts of his mentor, Shane Warne.

His decision to bowl was therefore a deliberate choice about what his team needed.

When a team bowls first on a good wicket, they are inherently playing from behind. This whole series, Australia has won from the front.

With the Ashes safely returned, Clarke was taking the opportunity to force his team to cope with a different kind of pressure.

Clarke knows he can trust his bowlers to get him 20 wickets, but his batsmen have been poor in pressure situations, particularly in the first innings.

By putting England in Clarke gave his batsmen not one, but two opportunities to experience Test match intensity and coming from behind.

It is perhaps not surprising that the Australians did not bat well in the first innings – nor, given the recent trend, that they improved markedly in the second.

By deliberately putting his team behind, Clarke was ensuring all of his batsmen faced an acid test twice in the same Test match.

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While this is a risky strategy, this team is still developing its confidence in different situation.

In this series, though, the Aussie team is on a roll. Success breeds its own confidence and Clarke and Lehmann would have been counting on this.

While neither Clarke nor Lehmann could publicly admit that they had used an Ashes Test (let alone a Boxing Day one) as a stress test for a team, they would be extremely happy with the experience their team gained in successfully coming from behind.

The team will be better for it and other teams will take note.