RUNS have consistently flowed off Michael Klinger’s bat throughout his 21-year career, and at 39 – in his last tournament before retirement – he is scoring a ton more.
Despite averaging just 16.7 runs in the first three weeks of his seventh, and last, T20 Vitality Blast series for UK club Gloucestershire, which he captains, the veteran opening batsman’s form has surged in recent games, playing a key role in helping his team advance to the upcoming quarter-finals.
The Melbourne native and former Perth Scorchers Big Bash League star scored 74 runs off 52 balls in Gloucestershire’s 25-run victory at home against Somerset on August 23.
Then, in a crucial five-run win against third-placed Kent in front of a full house at Canterbury on August 29, Klinger’s unbeaten, perfectly paced knock of 102 off only 65 balls – featuring four 6s and nine 4s, including a boundary on the final ball – proved the difference.
That masterful innings also took Klinger to eight T20 centuries, beating an all-time Australian record – although due to a scoreboard attendant’s error, he was actually unaware of that at the time.
“I didn’t even know I got 100 because the main scoreboard had [my score as] 91,” he said after the game.
“It probably took a bit of pressure off not even knowing I was close, to be honest.”
Only West Indies’ Chris Gayle, with 21 against his name, has scored more T20 centuries, while Australia’s Aaron Finch and David Warner, and England’s Luke Wright and New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum, have seven each.
To top it off, in their last regular season home game, away at Hove on August 30, Klinger got Gloucestershire off to a cracking start, scoring 48 runs off 39 balls in their three-wicket win.
That was enough to secure Gloucestershire second place in the competition’s south group – on eight wins and three losses – and book them a home quarter-final match against Derbyshire on September 7 [early morning on September 8, Australian time], which will also be Klinger’s last ever match at Gloucestershire’s home stadium, the Bristol County Ground.
Reflecting on the twilight month of his outstanding career, Klinger said he has made lifelong friends during his seven years captaining “Glos” and feels grateful to have witnessed the club make so much progress.
“It’s been fantastic to see a whole bunch of young players come through and be outstanding cricketers now,” Klinger said.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and it’s going to be a little hard to say goodbye to the home crowd (at Bristol), my coaches and teammates.
“The club and its staff have been absolutely fantastic in supporting myself and looking after my family – it’s been as good as I could ever imagine.
“It’s coming to an end (my final season), but I’ll certainly have very fond memories.
“And hopefully I’ve been able to make an impact both on and off the field, and leave a bit of a legacy at the club for everybody to continue to grow.”