CAPETOWN: Michael Clarke remained unbeaten on 161, one of the more heroic of his 27 test hundreds, as Australia reached 494 for seven before rain brought an early tea on the second day of the series-deciding third test against South Africa on Sunday.
Clarke reached 150 for the 10th time in his test career and in doing so moved past three Englishman on the all-time run scorers list – Geoffrey Boycott, Kevin Pietersen and David Gower.
His innings was interrupted just past the midway point of the afternoon session by a downpour, together with high winds, which forced the players from the field at Newlands.
The Australian captain took a battering on day one from pace bowler Morne Morkel, who struck him a number of times, including a sickening blow to the back of the head.
But Clarke showed admirable composure to tough it out on what is a flat wicket and having been unbeaten on 92 overnight, was able to bring up his hundred, though not before spending 24 balls stuck on 99.
He reached his century off 215 deliveries with 11 fours and Newlands is now the first ground outside of Australia where he has two tons to his name.
On the first day Clarke had survived a physical pounding from Morne Morkel but his challenge on the second morning was all in the mind as he survived 24 balls on 99 before bringing up a hard-fought century.
South Africa picked up just one wicket in the morning session but added three more after lunch, including two in consecutive balls from part-time spinner JP Duminy (four for 73).
Steve Smith (84) had looked in immaculate touch before he played onto his stumps off Dean Elgar. It ended a fourth-wicket stand of 184 in 50 overs between Smith and his skipper.
Shane Watson made his intentions clear by striking three sixes in a 32-ball innings of 40 but he departed when he tried to go over the top once too often, holing out to long-off from the bowling of Duminy. Brad Haddin (13) also chipped a catch to mid-off off Duminy and next ball Mitchell Johnson was out on review when South Africa asked for a replay and found he had tickled a catch down leg side.
The spinner then claimed two wickets in as many balls, first Brad Haddin (13) caught at mid-off by Amla following a brief juggling act, and then Mitchell Johnson (zero) who got a feather edge to a leg-side delivery and was caught by wicketkeeper AB de Villiers.
The South African pace attack has been blunted by the absence of the world’s top test bowler Dale Steyn, who limped out of the game on Saturday with a hamstring strain. He is unlikely to bowl again in the match.
The teams are level at 1-1 with South Africa not having beaten Australia in a home test series for 44 years.