Retiring Clarke on par with Border, says Warne

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Sydney, Aug 24: Shane Warne likened retiring Australian captain Michael Clarke to all-time great and former skipper Allan Border today as the nation's media mourned the loss of the Ashes series.

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Clarke ended his international career with 8,643 runs in 115 Tests, including 28 hundreds, going out on a high with a comprehensive innings and 46-run win in the fifth and final Ashes Test at The Oval on Sunday (August 23).

Clarke walks off the pitch past his Australian teammates after ending his final Test match

But it was a bittersweet moment with England taking the five-match series 3-2. Clarke, along with retiring opener Chris Rogers, were given an honour guard as they left the field and Warne paid tribute to his close friend with a touching video tribute.

"Allan Border was the most meticulous in preparation and I think Michael Clarke rivals Allan Border for his preparation in leading up to a game," the spinning-bowling great said.

He highlighted Clarke's "unbelievable" leadership after the death of fellow batsman and friend Phillip Hughes, who was struck on the head by a bouncer in a domestic Sheffield Shield match last year and never recovered.

"He was representing the family and Australian cricket, so to be able to handle that when it was one of his best mates, like his brother ... I thought the way he handled that stuff was unbelievable."

Warne hopes Clarke will go on to mentor the next generation of Australian cricketers and said he will be known not only for his skill but his on-field showmanship.

"Clarke will be remembered as a fleet-footed batsman that was a fantastic player of spinners, was great to watch, was easy on the eye, was a flamboyant player," he said.

"The way he got his runs was pretty great to watch, and the way he did it was with a bit of flair and imagination." Despite a stellar career, Clarke, 34, had struggled recently with his final knock of 15 at The Oval capping a series where he managed just 132 runs at an average of 16.50, helping contribute to the series defeat.

Fairfax Media lamented the loss of the series with Australia now needing to regroup ahead of a series in Bangladesh next month with batsman Steve Smith the new skipper.

"Even in the moment of victory on Sunday, the Australians did not know whether to laugh, cry or seek counselling," said Fairfax chief sports columnist Greg Baum.

Clarke waves to the crowd after winning the 5th Test

"It was very much battle won, war lost." He added that "generational transformation already was upon the Australian team, and when they convene again, it will be not only under a new captain, but as an almost unrecognisable ensemble from the one that began this series".

The Sydney Daily Telegraph was equally disappointed with the Ashes outcome. "Not even the smiles of one last victory for the retiring skipper could negate the deep-seated disappointment that this was the Ashes series that got away," cricket writer Ben Horne said.

"Once the initial afterglow fades, perhaps on the plane journey home, these players will be forced to face the gnawing reality that for a bit of common sense, they would have broken Australia's 14-year Ashes curse on UK soil."

AFP

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