Ton-derful feeling for Clarke
Michael Clarke paid tribute to ex-fiancee Lara Bingle after making an unbeaten century against New Zealand in Wellington.
By Joe Drabble
Last Updated: 19/03/10 10:34am
Michael Clarke paid tribute to ex-fiancee Lara Bingle after making an unbeaten century on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand in Wellington.
The Australia vice-captain has been the centre of media attention on both sides of the Tasman after his relationship with model Bingle ended shortly before the start of the Test series.
But the 28-year-old expertly put his personal problems to one side with a 141-ball century as the Aussies ended day one on 316-4 at the Basin Reserve.
Clarke arrived at the crease with the score on 115-3, and, despite taking 16 balls to get off the mark, the right-hander grew in confidence before notching his 14th Test century shortly before stumps.
Speaking to the media after the close of play, Clarke thanked his friends, family and more poignantly Bingle, for all their support ahead of the series opener.
"It's a very special feeling anytime you make a hundred but it's been a tough couple of weeks and the support I've had from my family, friends, team-mates ... and Lara as well has been tremendous," said Clarke, who ended the day 100 not out.
"Without her and her support I certainly wouldn't have been back over. To my family and friends who have supported me and Lara I thank them very much.
"I played some horrible shots from 50 to 100 but I had a little bit of luck so I'm really happy I got there," he said. "I don't think I would have slept too much if I was on 98 or 99."
Clarke was also delighted to see Marcus North, who finished day one unbeaten on 52, return to form after his position in the side came into question following low scores against West Indies and Pakistan.
"I'm stoked, first with the way he played, but for him to get a little 50 there is well deserved," he said.
"He's worked his backside off. He's had some hard times back at home and I think there have been some question marks about his position in the team but everyone in our changing room knows he should be there and he showed again today why he should be."
Despite Australia's position of strength, Clarke has warned his team-mates there is still plenty of work still to be done with the bat on day two.
"I think Marcus and I have got a big job to do to set a platform for the rest of the guys that come in," Clarke said.
"We've got some wonderful stroke-makers in Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson. We've got a big job tomorrow and we're in a good position at the moment.
"But if we don't start well tomorrow we could be under pressure because the wicket is good and it's going to be tough when we get the ball in our hand as well."
It was also a day to remember for New Zealand debutant Brent Arnel after he claimed 2-70 off 20 overs in Wellington.
The 31-year-old paceman struck with just the fifth ball of his Test career to dismiss Phillip Hughes and went on to claim the key wicket of Simon Katich (79) leg before wicket.
"I was ecstatic," Arnel said of his maiden Test wicket.
"It was a dream come true, especially getting it so early. It was probably more a batsman error than my bowling but I'll take it. I had a little plan to go against Katich and it worked out so I was pretty happy."
But he admitted some of the gloss had been taken off by the end of the day after they were unable to wrest the game away from Australia having had them at 176-4.
"We let ourselves down quite a lot," he said. "The first two sessions were exactly what we wanted and we were happy with that.
"We knew going into the third session what we had to do and we didn't execute the plans.
"We needed to put pressure on but Clarke and North came out quite positive and they wanted momentum before the next new ball and they got it. We were pretty disappointed."