Batter Clarke clattered 136 off 65 balls to record the 24th greatest innings in T20 history and the best for a Notts player – as the visitors racked 214 up on Northamptonshire Steelbacks.
Josh Cobb’s monstrous 62 from 32 deliveries gave the Steelbacks hope of raining on Clarke’s parade but eventually fell 14runs short, with Matt Carter’s parsimonious one for 15 vital.
The 2020 champions had failed to win their opening two fixtures – with a tie and a defeat – but bounced back in style to condemn the Steelbacks to back-to-back losses.
“It is always nice to get a win in your first few games to get that winning feeling,” said Clarke.
“It is all a bit of a luxury in T20 cricket. I was dropped on 29 and you need that sort of luck in cricket. But to contribute to our first win of the season was good.
“I know what my role is in the side – to be aggressive at the top – you then have moments when you are hitting the ball with the middle of the bat and I got that in the 30s and 40s and I just tried to keep that going.
“I feel like I’ve missed out on a couple of hundreds in the longer format this year.
“There is never a moment where you look up and think you are getting a big score as every individual ball is different and you are always looking to take a positive option, and by doing that you give the bowlers and fielders a chance of being in the game. It was just my day today.”
Having chosen to bat, it didn’t take long for Clarke to strike the first of his 11 sixes – the fourth-most in this country – as he smoked one straight over the Lynn Wilson Indoor School.
Alex Hales cut a six-four combo before skying to mid-off, before Peter Trego joined Clarke for an 82-run stand in 48-balls – during which Clarke passed 50 in 28 balls.
Trego, Tom Moores and Lyndon James both slogged to deep mid-wicket, Steven Mullaney was yorked, Samit Patel was brilliantly caught and bowled by Wayne Parnell – but they were simply the supporting cast to Clarke.
The only blip on Clarke’s innings was being spilt on 29 at mid-wicket, everything else left the 1,100 in attendance flabbergasted.
The sound of leather onto willow onto concrete or steel seemingly accompanied every delivery – with the straight and mid-wicket boundaries, where he amassed 51 and 72 runs respectively, peppered.
His hundred was typically brought up with a straight six in 49 balls. Clarke is now the sixth Englishman to score three T20 centuries, and the first not to have been capped by England.
He departed with three balls to spare, picking out Saif Zaib at long-on – having scored 64 per cent of the Notts runs.
The Steelbacks’ reply saw a required ultra-aggressive approach result in early wickets – Richard Levi, Adam Rossington and Ricardo Vasconcelos all departed in the power-play – mixed with an equal worm to Notts.
Cobb maintained the rate bringing up fifty in 22 balls before pulling up when coming through for second run to bring Vasconcelos back out as a runner.
Rob Keogh clubbed two sixes over long-on but failed with the third attempt to fall for 45 off 31, after a 104-run stand with Cobb.
Cobb eventually departed when he smashed a full-toss to the leg-side boundary, with Parnell caught straight and Tom Taylor at deep mid-wicket as the run-rate spiralled – Northamptonshire ending on 200 for seven.