Clarke leads Australian fightback

January 4th, 2009 - 5:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Jan 4 (IANS) Michael Clarke led the fightback along with the tail as Australia piled up 445 in the first innings on the second day of the third and final Test against South Africa here Sunday.Vice-captain Clarke struck a defiant 138 while Mitchell Johnson (64) Nathan Hauritz (41) and Peter Siddle (23) braved the South African pace attack to post a challenging first innings total after a top-order collapse.

At the close of play, South Africa were 125 for one at stumps with skipper Graeme Smith retiring hurt after taking a nasty blow on his left hand off Johnson.

Smith was batting on 30 when a Johnson delivery hit the crack and bounced awkwardly to take him by surprise, hitting his little finger on left hand. Smith winced in pain and went out for X-ray which revealed a fracture. He is expected to sit out of the match and Mark Boucher may take the captaincy reins.

Jacques Kallis (36) and Hashim Amla (30) negotiated the remaining overs after a scratchy Neil Mckenzie was dismissed by Siddle (1-21).

Australia’s attempt to save their revered top spot received a shot in arm after Clarke and the tail put up a dogged resistance to take the second day honours.

Ricky Ponting’s team though would be cautious as they have lost the first two Test matches in Melbourne and Perth despite being in an advantageous position. On both occasions South Africa came back strongly after the second day to inflict defeats.

Having already lost the series 0-2, the hosts were in trouble Saturday as the top order collapse left them at 162/5 at one stage. But Clarke and Johnson steered Australia to safety with a 142-run seventh wicket stand.

Clarke’s 10th Test century came in 250 balls with 17 fours. Johnson’s effort was studded with 11 fours, that included some powerful back-foot drives through the off-side.

Clarke got out to part-timer Jean Paul Duminy, giving him a simple return catch. Johnson edged to slip off Dale Steyn (3-95).

Hauritz and Siddle then frustrated the South African attack with a 59-run stand before Paul Harris claimed the duo to finish with figures of 3-84.

South African reply started fluently with Smith racing to 30 off 31 balls, hitting five fours while an out-of-sorts Mckenzie took his time in the middle.

After Smith retired hurt and Mzkenzie’s dismissal, Kallis and Amla added 49 runs. Kallis looked in touch having hit six fours in his 36 off 51.

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