Australia 494-7 South Africa: Michael Clarke battles back into form to put Australia in driving seat
Monday 03 March 2014
If Australia win the third Test and the series against the world’s No 1-ranked Test team, South Africa, Michael Clarke will be the hero of the hour, or rather, of at least the first innings.
Out of form for much of Australia’s victorious series against England, and in the first two Tests in South Africa, Clarke braved a vicious barrage from paceman Albie Morkel when he had just begun his seminal innings on a sun-filled Saturday.
He was struck painfully on the arm, the hand, and finally the head. Clarke rejected the physio’s advice to retire hurt and his fluency and class returned as he fought back to be 161 not out last night, having faced an ordeal when he was on 99. It took him 24 balls, during which his partner, the impetuous Steve Smith was nearly run out twice, to reach his 27th Test century.
After that, Clarke had only one narrow escape, a ball from Kyle Abbott sneaking over his stumps. The innings made back-to-back scores of 150-plus for Clarke in Cape Town. In 2011 his magnificent 151, played on a very bouncy wicket, failed to save the Test – Australia were 47 all out in their second innings – leading him to declare that his brilliant innings “meant nothing. We lost”.
This time he was more optimistic, if guarded. “If we don’t get the result we’re after then it will sit alongside the other 150,” he said at the end of the second day. “I’ve never scored an easy hundred, it’s always been tough, especially against a very good attack.”
On Saturday Clarke had yeoman support from David Warner with another century, then yesterday the in-form Smith hit 84.
However the rain and wind swept two groundsmen off their feet, and with it much of the afternoon and evening’s play.
Australia have a maximum of 292 overs left to conquer the South Africans in a series currently tied at 1-1 for which the home side had been firm favourites, at least until Australia annihilated England.
Clarke might even choose not to enforce any follow-on today knowing he can order quick efforts at mayhem - with South Africa hamstrung, literally, by the early injury to the world’s No 1-ranked Test bowler, Dale Steyn.
In his absence the South Africans lacked punch on the second day. JP Duminy, who took a wicket in his first over on Saturday, looked reasonable but not dangerous – although he took a flattering career-best 4 for 73, those last three in a late flurry.
After Shane Watson’s aggressive 40 came Brad Haddin, who on 13 chipped a catch to mid-off. With the next ball Duminy had Mitchell Johnson edging a catch down leg side.
The rain left Duminy on a hat-trick, but it is Australia who hold most of the cards. With the weather due to get better from today, Clarke is thought likely to declare overnight.
Paul Scholes: Manchester United vs Liverpool - I don't understand why Brendan Rodgers was not more attacking against Basel
Jesus Christ plays for Chelsea - that's what one in five children thinks
Transfer Talk: Nemanja Vidic to return to Manchester United; Hazard to leave Chelsea; Sunderland want Radamel Falcao
Frank Warren column: Don't bet on Amir Khan landing pay day against Floyd Mayweather
Manchester United transfer news: Kevin Strootman move edges closer
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food