Australian captain Michael Clarke hit an unbeaten 161 to guide his team to a strong position before rain disrupted his team’s bid to take a stranglehold on the second day of the third and final Test against South Africa at Newlands on Sunday. Australia were 494 for seven when a storm swept in on the back of high winds and prevented any play after mid-afternoon.
Before the rain, Australia were on target to take their total past 500 and subject South Africa to a challenging examination from the tourists’ fast bowlers in what was shaping as a mirror image of the domination achieved by South Africa in the second Test in Port Elizabeth.
Clarke said it was a “very satisfying” innings. “There were some tough stages yesterday (Saturday). Morne Morkel bowled a couple of pretty quick spells, bowling around the wicket with a set plan to attack the emblem on my helmet.
“That was difficult to get through but most important is we’ve got 494 runs on the board and I’m extremely pleased withthe position we’re in.” Clarke said Australia were determined to push for a win which would seal a series that is tied at one match each.
He said there was some inconsistent bounce. “Hopefully it continues to deteriorate and gets a little more up and down. But we’re going to have to bowl well, it’s still a very good batting wicket.”
South African bowler Kyle Abbott, who bowled two tight spells in difficult, windy conditions, said he thought the pitch would stay good for batting through most of the rest of the match. “We’ve got to bat as well as they have,” he said. We have to keep positive. As soon as you start thinking of a draw, or any negative thoughts, you come unstuck.”
Australia scored 163 runs in 39.4 overs on Sunday, blunting a depleted South African pace attack with an almost-new ball at the start of the day and then going for their shots. Part-time off-spinner JP Duminy claimed Test-best figures of four for 73, taking three wickets after lunch as Australia went for quick runs.
With strike bowler Dale Steyn out of action after suffering a hamstring injury on the first day, the key for Australia was to prevent the South African bowlers from making a breakthrough early in the day with an almost-new ball.
Abbott bowled an outstanding spell of six overs during which he conceded only one run —but couldn’t take a wicket, while Vernon Philander went for 39 runs in his six-over morning spell.
Clarke, who was on 92 overnight, quickly went to 99 but then faced 24 deliveries – 23 of them from Abbott – without being able to get the run to bring up his fifth century against South Africa. It finally came with a cover drive for four off Philander. He had faced 215 balls and hit 11 fours.
Smith, meanwhile, played some aggressive strokes, which included a straight six off Philander. He made 84 in a fourth wicket stand of 184 with Clarke before he chopped a wide delivery from part-time left-arm spinner Dean Elgar into his stumps. He hit nine fours and three sixes in a 155-ball innings.
Shane Watson, playing in his first match of the series, survived a review off the first ball he faced when Elgar appealed for leg before wicket but went on to make an aggressive 40 off 32 balls with two fours and three sixes. In trying to hit Duminy for a fourth six he mistimed a shot to long-off.
Brad Haddin also perished playing an attacking shot and Mitchell Johnson was caught down the legside first ball by wicketkeeper AB de Villiers off Duminy.
Clarke, who had gone 11 Test innings without making more than 24 runs, batted with increasing confidence and reached 150 for the tenth time in his career off 288 balls when he clipped Abbott for his 17th four.
Brief scores: Australia 494/7 in 127.4 overs (M Clarke 161 not out, D Warner 135, S Smith 84; Duminy 4/73, Steyn 1/44)