Hidden amongst Australia’s monstrous first innings total at Lord’s was a worrying single-figure score that will have Darren Lehmann scratching his head.
Sandwiched between the potentially series-turning centuries to Steve Smith and Chris Rogers was yet another low score to Australian skipper Michael Clarke, whose form woes are starting to become a concern.
On a friendly pitch that most of the Australian batsmen gleefully cashed in on, the 34-year-old looked less assured as he managed just seven runs before meekly pulling a catch to Gary Balance at square leg to give Mark Wood (1-92) his only wicket for the innings.
In an ideal world, you want your skipper contributing when runs are at a premium.
When he arrived at the crease with the score reading 2-362 following the 284-run second-wicket partnership between Rogers and Smith, an Australian record at Lord’s, the pressure was certainly not on.
What is worrying, however, is the captain’s average of 30.25 through four and a half Tests this year, which follows a similar output last year.
Since his fine 148 at the Adelaide Oval during the Ashes whitewash 18 months ago, Clarke has passed 50 on just two occasions – admittedly he went on to post centuries in each of them.
Clarke’s indifferent form is sure to revive talk that he move back to his preferred place in the batting order, third drop.
Batting at No.5, Clarke has scored the bulk of his Test runs and saved Australia more times than most.
In 108 innings, Clarke plundered 5936 runs at a superb average 61.83 – which would put him among the most elite in the history of the game.
At four, that average barely sneaks above 30.
“Whether it’s psychological or not, you want your best players getting runs,” former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott said on Friday regarding the disparity between the two batting positions.
“(On Friday) he was made to look very ordinary. He struggled for runs and took a long time to get his seven.
“I know it’s psychological, but half of sport is played in the head.”