Sydney - Michael Hussey ended his Test career on a high on Sunday when Australia beat Sri Lanka by five wickets with a day to spare in the third Test to sweep the series 3-0.
The 37-year-old was deprived of the ultimate fairytale ending when his batting partner Mitchell Johnson scored the winning run but Hussey, ever the team man, was not remotely concerned.
“It couldn't have ended any better,” he said after being applauded off the pitch by both teams at the end of his 79th Test.
“I feel very proud to have worn the baggy green cap and I've probably achieved a lot more in my career than I ever dreamed I could.”
Australia, chasing 141 runs to win the Test, lost three wickets in quick succession just before tea to bring Hussey out for his final test innings before retirement.
The break came with the hosts just five runs shy of victory and when Johnson pushed the ball wide of point for his only run of the innings, Hussey was already halfway down the pitch to secure the winning run.
“I was telling Mitch the over before if it comes up that you hit it, then I'm more than happy to let us get this over and done with,” said Hussey, who finished unbeaten on 27 for a career average of 51.52.
“But I was more than happy to be out there when the winning run was hit. A dream come true. The important thing was making sure we won the test match.”
Australia had dismissed the tourists for 278 before lunch to set up the run chase but they inched nervously towards the target after David Warner had departed for a duck without a run on the board.
Seamer Suranga Lakmal had the opener caught in the slips by his captain Mahela Jayawardene but it was the spin-bowling of Tillakaratne Dilshan and particularly Rangana Herath that was always going to provide most problems on a turning wicket.
The peace of a hot afternoon at the Sydney Cricket Ground was punctuated by the loud appeals of the Sri Lankans pretty much any time the ball came near a batsman's front pad.
Jayawardene, so profligate with his appeals to the TV umpire in this series, made the most of his first of the innings to remove Phil Hughes for 34 with Australia still 96 runs short of their target.
There was some confusion as to whether they were appealing for a catch or lbw off the Herath delivery. The TV pictures showed no nick or glove but did reveal that the ball would have hit the stumps so Hughes was out.
Clarke, the most prolific Test batsmen of last year and later named Player of the Series, came to the crease for another duel with Herath, who took more test wickets than any other bowler in 2012.
In the end though, it was the spin of Dilshan which removed the Australia skipper for 29 although opener Ed Cowan (36) and Matthew Wade (9) did then quickly fall victim to Herath.
The crowd had already started chanting Hussey's name before Clarke's dismissal in the hope he would get out to bat again in his final test after being run-out in the first innings and they got their wish.
“What a place to finish. The SCG is probably my top three favourite grounds in the whole world,” Hussey said.
“The crowd support and the support in general has been a bit overwhelming and I've been a bit embarrassed by it. In a way I'm quite relieved that it's over now.”
Sri Lanka had resumed on 225-7 in the morning looking to bulk up their lead of 87 and give their bowlers something to work with.
Dinesh Chandimal hit a defiant 62 not out off 106 balls but ran out of partners when Jackson Bird had Nuwan Pradeep caught behind for nine half an hour before lunch.
Chandimal and Pradeep had put on 41 for the final wicket after Herath (10) and Lakmal (0) had departed relatively cheaply.
Bird, the least experienced of the four paceman deployed by Australia in the test, was named Man of the Match after bagging figures of 7-117.
Australia won the first Test in Hobart by 137 runs and the second by an innings and 201 runs inside three days in Melbourne last week.
“I think we fought really well, but it wasn't good enough,” said Jayawardene, who is stepping down as captain after this series.
“When you are competing at this level, I think we need to be much better prepared and show more character to win test matches in these conditions.” – Reuters