There was no fairytale ending at The Oval for Sir Don Bradman, but that’s where Michael Clarke requires an unlikely 222 runs to finish with a career Test average above 50.
History shows a googly from English wrist-spinner Eric Hollies 67 years ago denied Bradman a mind-blowing 100-plus Test average.
Now Clarke returns to the famous London venue on Thursday with a long-shot chance of proving himself – by batting average standards – at least half the batsman that the mighty Don was.
Until his recent run of outs, Clarke seemed certain to join Bradman, Greg Chappell, Ricky Ponting, Jack Ryder, Mike Hussey, Steve Waugh, Matthew Hayden and Allan Border as only the ninth Australian batsman to wind up with a 50-plus Test average.
But after watching his average dip to 49.30 after compiling just 117 runs in eight digs during Australia’s forgettable Ashes series, Clarke needs a special swansong to join one of cricket’s most exclusive clubs.
The scenario is simple enough.
If he’s dismissed twice, Clarke must tally 222 runs to finish with a half-century Test average.
Otherwise, he could rack up a big ton – which would equal Bradman’s 29 Test centuries – and perhaps set up a face-saving Australian victory to achieve the rare milestone.
A total of 172 runs in the fifth Test would be enough, providing Clarke is only out once.
Regardless of how he fares, Clarke will be remembered as one of Australia’s greatest-ever batsmen.
Only Ponting (13,378), Border (11,174) Waugh (10,927) scored more runs wearing the baggy green.
And even Bradman, the finest batsman the game has known, bowed out in disappointment.
After blasting an unbeaten 173 in a spectacular fourth-Test win over England at Headingley in his penultimate Test innings, Bradman arrived at The Oval for his farewell to international cricket to a standing ovation and with an average of 101.39.
But he was bowled second ball for a duck and, with England collapsing to an innings defeat, Bradman never had the chance to bat again.
As it turned out, Bradman only needed four runs in his last innings to finish with a 100-plus average.
Instead, as any real Australian cricket fan knows, Sir Donald’s mystical average will forever be etched in the record books as 99.94.
THE EQUATION AT THE OVAL
HOW MICHAEL CLARKE CAN FINISH WITH A PLUS-50 TEST BATTING AVERAGE
– Clarke needs 222 runs (if dismissed twice) to lift his career average from 49.30 to above 50
If he is dismissed once in his final Test, Clarke needs a total of 172 runs.
AUSTRALIAN CRICKETERS TO FINISH THEIR CAREERS WITH PLUS-50 BATTING AVERAGE
Sir Donald Bradman – 99.94
Greg Chappell – 53.86
Ricky Ponting – 51.85
J Ryder – 51.62
Mike Hussey – 51.52
Steve Waugh – 51.06
Matthew Hayden – 50.73
Allan Border – 50.56