Michael Clarke century keeps Aussies in charge

2014-03-02 13:10

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Australia: 434/4 ( Clarke 137*, Warner 135, Smith 84, Duminy 1/39, Steyn 1/44, Elgar 1/99)

Australia consolidated their position at lunch on day two as Michael Clarke eventually cracked his 27th test hundred.

Clarke is not a batsman who suffers from the nervous 90’s but was stuck on 99 for 25 balls. The majority of those were from the impressive Kyle Abbott, who tested Clarke’s technique to the fullest.

Making the ball talk from the seam, Abbott did not persuade Clarke to play, but rather to leave with the hope of a bad misjudgement. Clarke trusted the bounce to a point where he was leaving off the back foot, but there were times when his leaves were far too close for comfort.

He finally got to his landmark by caressing a Vernon Philander ball through cover for four. The celebration itself was subdued but the importance of the knock cannot be understated as Clarke’s form was being questioned leading into the game.

However, when he has crossed 30 in his last 19 innings, he usually comes well with a century. He delivered with when his team needed him.

Clarke's nervousness allowed Steven Smith to blossom at the other end and in his boyish but effective manner, he belted the fast bowlers around the ground.

Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander were lofted high into the stands for imperious sixes. While Clarke made the South African bowling look better than it really was, Smith made sure they were the ordinary imposters that surfaced at SuperSport Park in the first test.

Smith should have converted his start into a 100, but cut a wide Dean Elgar delivery onto his stumps, ending their 184-run alliance. An easy on the eye batsman, Smith does find some ludicrous ways to get himself out.

The returning Shane Watson nearly fell early but was adjudged not out by umpire Kumar Dharmasena after South Africa went up for a  leg before appeal.

The review was not clear whether the ball hit Watson’s thigh first, but Watson was spared. That was the only chance that came South Africa’s way.

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