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Tuesday, Aug 11th

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Michael Clarke: Leadership, responsibility and an even better cricketer

Ever since Michael Clarke was recognised as Australian captain in waiting, he has been continuously battling to prove himself a worthy successor to the likes of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting. His performances in the last few months buried all apprehensions about his leadership as they seem to indicate that if there was a role Clarke was born to play, it was that of the Australian skipper. The Australian cricket team has undergone a massive metamorphosis over the years and after the Ashes debacle is now in the process of rebuilding. The transition has been a rather smooth one till now as his side has already registered 5 victories in only 10 tests under his regime.

For some cricketers, the burden to lead the side could have an adverse effect on their performance but Clarke's batting average has got a great boost since he took over the baton to be Australia's full time Test captain. He now averages 54.9 since being appointed Test skipper, as compared with 46.49 before taking over the role. He has scored 4 centuries since March last year and has already developed a special aura of an inspiring and a complete captain. His 151 against at Cape Town two months ago against a lively South African attack when the chips were down and his 139 safely that guided Australia to a 9 wicket win over New Zealand were some innings to remember in what is only the beginning of what looks like a promising era for Aussie cricket under Michael Clarke.

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Clarke vaults into top 10 after unbeaten triple century

Australia captain Michael Clarke has rocketed his way into the top 10 of the ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen for the first time in 15 months after his career-best unbeaten triple century earned his side an innings and 68 runs victory in the second Test in Sydney on Friday. The win gave the home side a 2-0 lead in the four-Test series.

Clarke scored 329 runs, after a little over 10 hours of vigil at the crease, during which he received 468 deliveries, off which 39 were converted into fours and one into a six. For this magnificent achievement, the 30-year-old has been rewarded with a jump of 12 places and he is now in eighth position.

This is Clarke's best ranking since his eighth position which he had achieved after the Mohali Test against India in October 2010. The charismatic skipper has also become his side's highest-ranked batsman after leapfrogging Michael Hussey.

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De Villiers wins Man of the Series, Philander find of the Proteas summer

South Africa got their 2012 year off to the perfect start when they beat Sri Lanka by 10 wickets in the third Sunfoil Test at Sahara Park Newlands on Friday with a session and a full day to spare. This result clinched the series for them 2-1 and brought to an end a run of drawn home Test series against England, India and Australia. By the same token it must also be pointed out that the Proteas have been unbeaten in away Test series since their visit to Pakistan in 2007. This includes two series in India as well as one each in Australia and England.

Sri Lanka put up a dogged fight for much of the fourth day with Thilan Samaraweera scoring his second century in successive Test matches (115 not out off 215 balls with 14 fours) and sharing a partnership of 142 with Angelo Mathews.

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South Africa romp to 10 wicket win in Newlands to win Series 2-1 despite Samaraweera ton

South Africa defeated Sri Lanka by 10 wickets at Newlands to capture their first series triumph on home soil since overturning Bangladesh in 2008. The Lankans, who enjoyed a wicketless first session today, battled hard to deny the Proteas an innings victory. A super 142 run stand between Thilan Samaraweera (115*) and Angelo Mathews (63) salvaged a bit of Lankan pride. The dominant South Africans bowled out Sri Lanka for 342 just before tea. 'Player of the Match' Jacques Kallis was lethal with the ball on the fourth day and returned figures of 3-35. Having to chase a meagre 2 runs, South Africa romped home with a day to spare.

With their backs to the wall the overnight batsmen, Thilan Samaraweera and Angelo Mathews exhibited a great deal of resilience to help Sri Lanka see through the fourth morning session without losing a wicket. Barring a couple of close run-out calls, it was smooth sailing for the visiting Lankans. The in-form Thilan Sawaraweera followed the good old Test match virtues of patience and circumspection to fend off the South African attack. Angelo Mathews kept him good company. The  Lankan vice-captain got going with a superbly controlled four through mid-wicket off a juicy full toss off legspinner Imran Tahir. Samaraweera earned his fifty on the last ball prior to the first drinks break. Soon after, Mathews also got to his half-century.

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Yet Another Sydney Disaster for Team India

Time may have moved on four years, but India is standing still. The touring Indians are exactly where they were in January 2008, losing the Sydney Test to go 2 – 0 down in the four match series, except of course for the infamous "Monkey Gate" incident which one hopes never resurfaces again. In such a situatuin, it is only natural to perform the post-mortem of the defeat. Fans and critics alike will harbour their own views on the reasons for the debacle, and their are already cries in large sections of the media calling for the head of India's World Cup winning captain. Amidst the cries for changes in personnel and need for tactical amendments, the reality is that the core issue surrounding overseas disasters requires more than a layman's perspective.

Winding back the clock four mornings, one can't help but wonder if MS Dhoni made the right call on winning the toss. Had India survived the early juice offered by a fresh pitch by playing out the first session, it could well have been a flat deck feast for India. But the ghosts surrounding the England horror returned. Losing four wickets in the first session with only Tendulkar looking the part gave a feeling that the 1990s were back. 

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