Clarke sparkles in the gloom
Australia skipper hits unbeaten 107 to check South Africa seamers
By Graeme Mair - Twitter: @gmair 1. Last Updated: 10/11/11 4:22pm
Australia captain Michael Clarke's century kept his side afloat on the opening day of the Test series against South Africa at Newlands.
Asked to bat in lively conditions, Clarke was 107 not out when bad light - soon followed by rain - ended play after just 55 overs with Australia on 214-8.
Seamers Dale Steyn (4-31) and Vernon Philander (3-54) twice threatened to run through the tourists, only for Clarke to stand firm on both occasions.
Australia recovered from 40-3 thanks to a fourth-wicket stand of 103 between Clarke and Shaun Marsh (44).
Steyn produced a fine spell either side of tea, accounting for Marsh and Brad Haddin as Australia were pegged back from 143-3.
But Clarke continued his counter-attack, bringing up his 16th Test century from 108 balls before the weather closed in.
Steyn had earlier struck twice and debutant Philander once when play belatedly got under way following overnight rain.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith won the toss and had no hesitation in bowling, a decision that paid off almost immediately.
Shane Watson was first to go in the fifth over, edging Steyn to Jacques Kallis at second slip.
And Watson's opening partner Phil Hughes followed in the next over, Philander - having been entrusted with the new ball - found the left-hander's outside edge and wicketkeeper Mark Boucher did the rest.
Clarke's predecessor as captain, Ricky Ponting - coming in below Marsh at number four - pulled one short ball from Philander for six but was soon undone by Steyn, who successfully used the DRS to win an lbw decision after the veteran right-hander had thrust his front pad at a straight delivery.
Marsh and Clarke put together an impressive partnership in testing conditions and almost succeeded in batting throughout the afternoon when Steyn accounted for Marsh with another lbw verdict in the last over of the session.
Paceman Morne Morkel (1-58) chipped in with the scalp of Michael Hussey (1) after tea, the left-hander inside edging to Boucher from a delivery that seamed and bounced.
Brad Haddin drove to gully to give Steyn his fourth victim but there was no stopping Clarke, who brought up his personal three figures with a cover drive for four, his 16th, off Kallis.
It was the 16th Test hundred of the New South Welshman's career and second in a row, having scored 112 in the draw in draw against Sri Lanka in Colombo which sealed a 1-0 win in his first series in charge.
Despite Clarke's heroics, the day swung back towards South Africa when Philander bounced out Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris shortly before the umpires took the players from the field for the final time.