Outstanding Clarke Resists Brilliant South Africa
Australia 214-8 (Clarke 107no, Steyn 4-31) v South Africa
First Test, Cape Town, day one
Michael Clarke emerged from a compelling battle with Dale Steyn to score a fine unbeaten century as Australia closed day one of the first Test against South Africa on 214 for eight.
The bowlers took charge early and a fired up Steyn peppered the Australian captain with a hostile spell of short-pitched bowling, to which he responded by making 107 not out in 114 balls on a rain-shortened day.
He hit 17 fours to almost single-handedly keep Australia on an even keel as Steyn took four wickets and debutant Vernon Philander three on an enthralling day's Test cricket.
It began with both sides frustrated as they were made to wait for the toss by the weather until eventually Graeme Smith won it and invited Clarke to bat. Clarke said he would have batted anyway, although that decision would have been questioned immedaitely as Steyn and Philander had openers Shane Watson (3) and Phillip Hughes (9) hopping about before both fell.
Watson was outrageously squared up by Steyn as he nicked to Jacques Kallis at second slip and Hughes offered wicket-keeper Mark Boucher his 500th catch in Test cricket when he edged Philander, who exploited the seam-friendly conditions beautifully.
Ricky Ponting lifted one six into the midwicket stand but fell for eight when he was trapped in front by Steyn for eight before Shaun Marsh, who made 44, and Clarke, added 103 for the fourth wicket to revive Australia's desperately flagging innings.
Marsh, who has already made the number three position his own, did much to take the sting out of South Africa's attack, absorbing body blows and driving anything loose while Clarke somehow survived a barrage of Steyn's thunderbolts which were delivered as if he had been saving them up during the 305 days that have passed since South Africa last played a Test.
Having overcome that, Clarke expanded his game, driving exquisitely through the covers and down the ground and being particulary harsh on debutant leg-spinner Imran Tahir, who after delivering an excellent first over at Ponting, offered up plenty of scoring options for Clarke to take advantage of.
Marsh finally fell when the irrepressible Steyn had him trapped in front and while Clarke looked immovable at one end, Australia began to swiftly lose their way at the other.
Mike Hussey inside edged Morne Morkel to Boucher for one, Brad Haddin was caught in the gully by Ashwell Prince off Steyn for five before a double strike from Philander saw off Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris.
Johnson hit 20 in 22 balls, keeping pace with Clarke before he limply pulled Philander to Morkel at midwicket. The ball followed Morkel again when Ryan Harris (5) skied the same bowler and was this time taken comfortably at mid on. Harris immediately dropped his head as if he dared not face up to his skipper at the other end, who had been the only man in the afternoon to have gotten his head down and applied himself skilfully.
Steyn finished the day with figures of four for 31 and Philander three for 54 having completed a wonderful first day as a Test cricketer. For Tahir and the majority of the Australian batsmen, they will have to wait until later in the match to show their best as today belonged to Clarke - just pipping Steyn and Philander on a bowler's wicket.
© Cricket World 2011