Australia 331-3 (Warner 135, Clarke 92no) v
Third Test, Cape Town, day one
South Africa had a torrid time on day one of the deciding Test against Australia at Newlands in Cape Town. They lost their premier fast-bowler Dale Steyn with a hamstring strain - he is not expected to bowl again, at least in the first innings - and then watched as Australia’s batsmen made hay.
David Warner smashed a scintillating century, while Michael Clarke ended just shy of a more battling one as Australia closed on 331 for three after winning the toss and electing to bat. Morne Morkel was arguably the most impressive of the Proteas’ attack. He didn’t take a wicket, but did give Michael Clarke a fierce working over with the short ball.
Australia began the day by winning what looks like being an important toss and electing to bat. Both sides made two changes. South Africa welcomed back Alviro Petersen from his viral infection to take Dean Elgar’s place at the top of the order, with Elgar dropping down to take Quinton de Kock’s place in the middle-order. They also made one enforced change, with the injured Wayne Parnell replaced by Kyle Abbott, who was preferred to Rory Kleinveldt. Australia brought back fit-again all-rounder Shane Watson at the expense of Shaun Marsh, with James Pattinson preferred to the out-of-sorts Peter Siddle.
The tourists began with a rollicking opening stand between Chris Rogers and Warner, with the 50 partnership brought up in just the 10th over. Steyn (10.1-0-44-1) had Rogers (25) caught behind not long after as he flashed a drive through to Graeme Smith at slip, but Alex Doolan came in and partnered Warner through until lunch, which was reached at 118 for one after only 26 overs.
Doolan (20) perished in the first half hour after lunch when he mistimed a pull shot off Vernon Philander (19-2-66-1) to Steyn at mid-wicket, but that just brought Clarke, now back up to number four in the Aussie batting order, to the crease.
He partnered Warner through to his seventh Test century, which came off just 104 balls as the pugnacious left-hander dominated the first half of the day. He did survive an appeal for a caught behind when on 95, but soon reached three figures. He and Clarke would take Australia to tea on 195 for two.
If Warner looked in fine fettle, then Clarke certainly had to work harder. He came into the match a little out of form and was soon given a test by Morkel. The tall fast-bowler bowled round the wicket and repeatedly peppered Clarke, hitting him on the helmet and hand among a plethora of painful blows.
Clarke, though, showed all of his class and coped with the loss of Warner for 135 to JP Duminy’s off-spin to reach yet another Test half-century. By the close, he had moved onto 92 and looked almost back to his best as he began to find the boundary off even Morkel. Steve Smith also did so, upper-cutting for four to reach his fifty in the penultimate over of the day.
A Steyn-less South Africa will need to strike early, and more than once, tomorrow morning if they are to not be shut out of this Test in its early stages. If they can’t then their brilliant fightback at Port Elizabeth will have been in vain. In what has been a wonderful series thus far, it would be naive to bet against there being more twists before it reaches its conclusion on Wednesday.
© Cricket World 2014