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The Ashes Zone: Michael Clarke's footwork a feat of true skill

The Ashes Zone - How to play spin

Crisp, unerring footwork has been a feature of Michael Clarke's Test century against England at Old Trafford.

But what makes the Australian captain such a fine player of spin and how does his method compare to that of some of the game's great batsmen?

Captain's innings from Clarke

Sky Cricket pundits Shane Warne, whose leg-spin claimed 708 wickets for Australia, and former England captain Nasser Hussain - a fine player of spin bowling - joined Ian Ward in the Ashes Zone to analyse Clarke's technique.

"Some people think that you only have to move your feet to the quicker bowlers when in fact you have to be quick on your feet and have quick hands against slow bowling," said Hussain.

"Clarke never let Graeme Swann settle - he was either coming down the wicket to get to the pitch of the ball and use his hands or, when Swann would just be a little bit shorter Clarke would pounce off that front foot and hit back.

"Very rarely did he stand there and play the perfect forward defence, bringing DRS in to play."


Clarke's class act

Warne emphasised the importance of Clarke's movement, underlining how much tougher it makes life for the bowling side.

"As a spin bowler you want to get the batsman stuck right on the crease - that brings everything in to play, whether it be bat-pad, slip or lbw," said the Australian.

"The players who really trouble the spinners are those who can go right back or right forward; by using the crease they are harder to bowl to.

"If the batsman is a very good player of spin like Clarke he goes late and the bowler can't change his delivery; there's no indication that he's going to come down the pitch."

So how does Clarke compare to some of his peers in the game?

Brian Lara...

Shane: What he did so well was judge the length and he had a plan. When he first came in he would just stay there and hit the ball but once he got in he looked to dominate and he was so quick at using that crease. His strength was that he could come down the pitch quickly but he could also go back, and he didn't just have a pull shot - he had a cut shot too, which he could play very late. On a big turning wicket when it's turning back into the stumps for a left-hander out of the rough he could play it so late that he could manipulate the field. It was always good fun bowling to someone like Brian Lara. He had the ability to find the gaps.

Kevin Pietersen...

Shane: What makes Kevin Pietersen hard to bowl to is his power, his destructiveness, his height and his range of shots - he can hit you down the ground or he can slog-sweep you. But he gives you a chance too and I think most spinners would much prefer to bowl to someone like Kevin Pietersen even though he might smash you because on other days you could get him out because he's a bit loose when he plays. He's probably the most destructive player in the world against spin; he's got a good defence but he likes to dominate all the time, whereas guys like Michael Clarke and Brian Lara consistently, on any surface, are really going to hurt you because they can manipulate the field.

Nasser: Pietersen is not a great player of spin but he's played great innings against spin - innings against Warne, Murali, India. He does have this anomaly that some dodgy left-arm spinner will come and get him out.

Sachin Tendulkar and Hashim Amla

Player of the day - Amla

Nasser: Sachin has fantastic hands. He can go to the slog-sweep when he needs it but his hands go right through the ball when he plays spin. It's very important to get to the pitch of the ball and get your hands there when it is turning - that's why the Asian cricketers play spin so well. Hashim Amla is the same - he manoeuvres the ball around with soft hands.

Shane: The one thing Amla did so well was he did have a plan; any batsman has got to weigh up the conditions and formulate a plan. Don't do something someone else says you should be doing - not using your feet or sweeping if you are not that good at it, but do what suits you. As well as pick up the length the other thing that Tendulkar and Amla do well is play the ball late; that allows them to use their hands because they hit the ball under their eyes rather than go out searching for the ball.