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Monday, March 03, 2014

Clarke continues to lead Australia from front before rain stops play: T3D2


Australia 7/494 (127.4ov, Clarke 161*/301b/17x4, Warner 135/152b/1x6 12x4, Smith 84/155b/3x6 9x4, Watson 40/32b/3x6 1x4, Duminy 17-0-73-4) v South Africa: T3/3 D2/5 at Newlands, Cape Town.

Australia's didn't have things all their own way, yet they won all the major segments of the half day's play that was possible before rain, propelled by high winds, halted proceedings.

First Michael Clarke reached his century after a long time on 99, mainly because of a superb spell of tight bowling from Kyle Abbott, whom I yesterday damned with faint praise. Unfortunately for the Proteas there as nobody to sustain the pressure at the other end: Dale Steyn was off the field injured, Morne Morkel on the field but out of his captain's bowling plans for the first hour ( another Graeme Smith blunder?), Vernon Philander was just off his game, having what must have been, considering his international ranking, one of his worst days of Test cricket.

Clarke was able to take his time reaching his century partly because Steve Smith, batting with the mature belligerence which he's developed over the past year, kept the score ticking over at the other end. He looked set for a century before he unexpectedly played (more accurately pulled) on to Dean Elgar, the makeshift second spinner. 

The makeshift first spinner, JP Duminy, actually bowled reasonably well, though his four wickets flattered him. If there was assistance for him in the wicket he was unable to extract it, though he varied his flight and seemed to take stoically the inevitable punishment from Smith, Clarke post century and, in a brief cameo just right for the situation, Shane Watson. We'll need to wait another day (or innings) to see if he completes his hat trick, and to compare him with Nathan Lyon.

The half day lost to the weather was obviously South Africa's. The pitch appears to be playing well, there are 20 South Africa wickets to be taken in three days, minus whatever time may be required for another Australia innings (or the rest of the current one), and a Steyn less South Africa look down on bowling confidence. But they do bat deep on paper and can be resolute in playing for a draw.

<a href="http://www.espncricinfo.com/south-africa-v-australia-2013-14/engine/match/648677.html"> Scorecard</a> 
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