SYDNEY (Reuters) - No name is more evocative in Australian cricket than Donald Bradman and merely to be mentioned in the same sentence as the 20th century great is the highest praise that can be bestowed on a batsman.
To have actually outdone the batting master, as Michael Clarke did on Thursday on the Adelaide Oval ground that Bradman called home for much of his career, summoned up special plaudits.
“One year in Bradman’s company as Clarke bats and bats and bats,” read the headline on the front page of the Australian newspaper on Friday, while the Daily Telegraph led with: “Aussie skipper Michael Clarke pushes Proteas and Donald Bradman aside.”
The Australia captain’s unbeaten 224 on the opening day of the second test against South Africa at the Adelaide Oval made him the first batsman to score four double centuries in a calendar year.
Bradman managed three in 1930 and Ricky Ponting matched the feat in 2003 but a fourth placed the 31-year-old, still known as “pup” for his youthful enthusiasm when he first burst onto the test stage, out on his own.
“It was actually hard to imagine Clarke getting out again, short of natural disaster or divine intervention, such is his certainty, fluency and apparent invulnerability at the crease,” Gideon Haigh wrote in the Australian.
“Among myriad records, he became the first batsman to score four double or triple centuries in a year. Donald Bradman and Ricky Ponting managed three. That is the company Clarke is now keeping, and he does not appear out of place.”
At close of play on Thursday with Australia on 482 for five, Clarke had batted for more than 43 hours and scored 1,265 runs at an average of 140.56 in 2012.
The Bradman Stand at the Adelaide Oval has been reduced to rubble as the picturesque old ground is redeveloped but the field has retained its short boundaries and the quickest of outfields also helped Clarke on his way to his huge total.
“If there is a cricket ground that could contain Michael Clarke right now, it is not the economy-size Adelaide Oval and its welcome mat of a pitch,” Greg Baum wrote in the Age.
”If there is an attack that could limit him, it is not this South African set, made threadbare this day by injury and left to cower before his broad and tireless blade.
“There is, of course, a record book that can confine him, but it will take much rewriting.”
That the hosts, who also enjoyed centuries from opener Dave Warner and Mike Hussey on Thursday, were unable to overhaul the 1910 record of most runs scored in Australia in one day (494) was only due to the tourists miserly over rate.
With three tests - one more against South Africa and two against Sri Lanka - remaining before the end of 2012, Clarke could yet break Pakistani batsman Mohammad Yousuf’s 2006 record of 1788 runs in a calendar year.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury