Clarke scores 218 to put Australia back in the driving seat

 

Captain Michael Clarke said positive batting had been the key to his unbeaten double century and Australia’s remarkable turnaround of fortunes in the first Test against South Africa yesterday.

Clarke came to the wicket with his side under the cosh at 40 for three in reply to South Africa’s 450 on Sunday afternoon and more than eight hours of batting later, was targeting what would be a stunning victory with his team on 487-4.

The 31-year-old carried his bat to the pavilion with 218 runs on the board having shared a record partnership of 259 with Ed Cowan, who scored his maiden Test century in an innings of 136, and another stand of 188 with Mike Hussey (86 not out). Much of the talk before the series had been about the South African pace attack of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel and it was from an Australian bowling great of the past, Shane Warne, that Clarke drew his inspiration to neuter them. “One of the things Warney’s taught me over the years is the better the bowling, the more positive you’ve got to be and that was my intent from the first ball I faced yesterday,” Clarke said.

“I think Ed and I just tried to play our natural games. We had a bit of luck along the way and Michael Hussey showed great intent, scored very freely and continued to show his class. When you’re under pressure, that’s when I generally play my best cricket.”

Clarke’s form since he took over as captain from Ricky Ponting last year has been little short of brilliant with a batting average of over 60 in that period and six Test centuries under his belt.

Monday’s effort was his third double century of the year – taking in his sublime unbeaten 329 against India at Sydney in January – and he has now scored 1,000 Test runs in 2012.

“I’m trying to get better every day,” Clarke added. “It’s been nice to lead the way with the bat. I’ve said for a while now, it’s not what you say, it’s what you do.

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