Michael Clarke showed his class to put Australia well in control of the third Test on the second day’s play. After standing up to a barrage of short deliveries on Day 1, the Aussie skipper went to his 27th Test match century in the morning session of Day 2 before eventually closing on 160 not out.
He was supported well by Steven Smith (84) and Shane Watson (40), who tucked into a South African bowling attack that looked a little toothless without the injured Dale Steyn. Steyn won’t bowl in for the remainder of the first innings.
Clarke became the second Aussie to notch a century in this excellent first-innings effort, and he paid tribute to his teammate David Warner prior to Day 2 (Warner made 135 on Day 1).
Warner has come in for some criticism after he queried as to whether the South African team had been ball tampering earlier in the week per The Telegraph, but Clarke was quick to back his man per Jesse Hogan of The Sydney Morning Herald:
He's a tough bugger, there's no doubt about it, and he'll love the challenge he faces when he walks out onto that ground.
I've read and heard a number of the South Africans say how disappointed they were with him. I think he's assumed he's going to cop a bit of stick on the field, but that's no different. He's copped it his whole career and he actually enjoys that.
Rain eventually stopped play on Day 2 in the afternoon session and ultimately halted play for the day. Australia closed just shy of 500 on 494-7, well in control of the Test match.
After weathering the South African storm the day before, Clarke and Smith resumed for the tourists with the score at 331-3. The Aussie skipper looked intent on reaching his century as quickly as possible as he motored onto 99, but the runs suddenly seemed to dry up.
|Third Test Match: South Africa vs. Australia in Cape Town|
|Australia First Innings: 494/7 (127.4 Overs)|
|Batsman||Method of Dismissal||Runs||Balls|
|CJL Rogers||c Smith b Steyn||25||41|
|DA Warner||c †de Villiers b Duminy||135||152|
|AJ Doolan||c Steyn b Philander||20||66|
|MJ Clarke*||not out||161||301|
|SPD Smith||b Elgar||84||155|
|SR Watson||c Amla b Duminy||40||32|
|BJ Haddin†||c Amla b Duminy||13||21|
|MG Johnson||c †de Villiers b Duminy||0||1|
|RJ Harris||not out||4||3|
|Extras||(w 6, nb 6)||12|
|ESPN Cric Info|
Clarke faced 24 balls on 99 before he eventually drove a half-volley from Vernon Philander to the boundary to bring up a gutsy, classy and important hundred. A couple more flourishes with the bat saw him move onto 111 by the end of the over.
As Clarke continued to keep the scoreboard ticking off, Smith took it upon himself to inject some impetus into the innings as he hammered two sixes in consecutive overs. But he was gone not long after as he sliced a wide, long hop onto his stumps just 16 runs short of his century.
Watson came in looking to follow on from where Smith left off, as he raced to 40 from just 32 deliveries. But he was caught on the boundary by Hashim Amla off the bowling of Jean-Paul Duminy, before Brad Haddin fell to the same combination for just 13. Meanwhile, Clarke had passed the 150 mark for the 10th time in Test matches.
Quite remarkably, Duminy—usually a part-time bowler—was on a hat-trick when Mitchell Johnson edged his first ball down the leg-side to AB De Villiers; the South African would have to wait until his next over before getting his hat-trick chance. Alas, the heavens opened in the very next over, meaning Duminy would have to wait to bowl his hat-trick ball.
The players took an early tea as the rain began to pour in, the prospect of any more play in the day looking decidedly bleak. Play was eventually called off midway through the evening session.
The day undoubtedly belonged to Clarke, who will remember this particular knock for some time. To stand up to a bowling assault like that from Morne Morkel on Day 1, 24 dot balls on 99 on Day 2 and to still come out the other side with a big hundred is the mark of a great player and a marvellous captain.
Knocks like that can inspire teammates. With three days left to play in this Test match, expect the rest of the Australian team to follow the sterling example that has been set by their captain.
South Africa must bounce back quickly on Day 3 if they are to have any chance of salvaging a result here. Their only hope is getting these last three wickets in quick time, and hope Steyn can inspire their bowling attack in the second innings.