Clarke, who missed the one-day international tour to India as a result of his chronic back struggles, returned to action in the Blues' Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania.
Despite having not played since Australia's tour to England finished six weeks ago, Clarke came to the fore at the Blacktown Olympic Park Oval in Sydney.
He struck eight fours before falling 12 runs short of his century after flashing at a wide ball from Sam Rainbird to be caught behind.
Nevertheless, his was the top score as New South Wales reached 275 for eight, which will please Australians with the return Ashes series just around the corner.
"It was nice to make a few runs, disappointed with my shot and to get a start and throw it away is disappointing, but it was nice to spend so much time out in the middle," Clarke said.
"I certainly needed it and there was a bit of rust there that's for sure but (it is) nice to contribute."
On whether he was troubled by his back, the 32-year-old added: "Not at all, I felt completely fine.
"I was certainly a little bit rusty and I think my legs will certainly be a little bit heavy tomorrow but it's a nice feeling to spend so much time in the middle."
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