MICHAEL Clarke will almost certainly finish his remarkable year with a 2012 average of more than 100, soaring to heights reached only by Don Bradman, Gary Sobers and Ricky Ponting in the history of Test cricket.
The Australian captain added another chapter to his storybook campaign since January 1, shaking off a pre-match hamstring strain to score a fifth Test century of the calendar year, to go with a triple and three doubles, as Sri Lanka was left on the brink of a series defeat at the MCG.
It was Clarke's first Test hundred in a Boxing Day Test, completing his personal collection of tons at all six regular Australian venues. It propelled him past Ponting as the most prolific Australian runscorer in a single year and he climbed to fourth on the all-time list.
Michael Clarke celebrates his century. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
His tally of 1595 runs leaves him still 193 behind the holder of that record, Pakistan's Mohammad Yousuf but, more importantly, has him in the most exclusive of company as one of only four men to have averaged in excess of 100 and scored 1000 or more runs in a year. The others are Bradman (in 1948), Sobers (1958) and Ponting (2003).
Clarke's 2012 average is a princely 106.33, and that can only be knocked back beneath triple figures if he scores less than five in Australia's second innings.
With Australia on 8-440 after day two and holding a lead of 284, the likelihood is that he will not even have to bat again.
Clarke's 106 on Thursday was complemented by Shane Watson's 83, and although the vice-captain will be aghast at again squandering an opportunity to register a third Test century, his long stay in the middle was highly encouraging so soon after his switch to No. 4.
Watson's all-round attributes are being challenged by the recalled Mitchell Johnson (73 not out), who will seek a second Test ton on Friday after being a standout with the ball on day one.
So incredible has Clarke's year been that a hundred, of the regulation variety, almost seems run-of-the-mill these days. There was new ground reached on Thursday, though, and he was clearly delighted to finally thrive in the showpiece Test of the home summer and to pass Ponting's mark.
''It's nice to get that monkey off my back, that's for sure,'' he said. ''I've always loved playing cricket at the MCG. In regards to beating Ricky, in my eyes he's certainly the greatest batsman I ever was lucky enough to play with, so to beat any record that Ricky holds is very special.''
Clarke's exit in the afternoon was followed almost immediately by that of Watson, whose pull shot off Dhammika Prasad went straight down the throat of Thilan Samaraweera. Watson's conversion rate does not make pretty reading - in 38 Tests he has passed 50 on 21 occasions, and progressed to 100 only twice.
But Clarke says his deputy's part in their 194-run stand showed good signs. ''I think it's very exciting the way Watto played,'' he said. ''He showed a lot of discipline, I guess, in his shot selection and even the ball he got out on. As his captain, I'm not disappointed in his shot selection because he pulls and hooks as good as anybody in our team.
''It's a shot that he generally plays really well and nine times out of 10 it will go for four and six. It's just unfortunate for him today that it went straight to the fielder.
''There's obviously been a lot of talk about Watto's statistics in regards to hundreds scored. And he certainly has spoken openly about that. For me, it's about Watto playing his best cricket, because I'm confident if he's doing that, he'll make big hundreds. I've seen that in one-day cricket, I've seen it a couple of times in Test cricket.''