Clarke consolidates Australia's command

Australia

Captain Michael Clarke's extraordinary 161 not out took Australia to a very dominant 494 for seven before rain blew off Table Mountain and onto Newlands before tea on day two of the third and final Test on Sunday.

Captain Michael Clarke's extraordinary 161 not out took Australia to a very dominant 494 for seven before rain blew off Table Mountain and onto Newlands before tea on day two of the third and final Test on Sunday.

An angry, wet wind quickly blew the crowd out of the ground but many of the fans wouldn't have minded the weather ruining their afternoon as South Africa would happily take a draw now, were it offered to them.

Clarke spent 25 balls on 99 before a beautiful drive off Vernon Philander took him to his 26th century. It was an important achievement for a captain who has been under pressure with the bat after not making more than 25 runs in any of his last 11 innings.

Clarke would have been eyeing a double hundred but the loss of 51 overs on Sunday could force his hand to a declaration, perhaps overnight. Some cloud is forecast for the morning and this flat and dry wicket might have got a little moisture on it as the groundstaff struggled to get the covers on timeously in the strong winds.

JP Duminy took career-best figures of four for 73 and is on a hat-trick overnight after he claimed the wickets of Brad Haddin (13) and Mitchell Johnson (zero) the over before the rain arrived. South Africa were hampered by the absence of Dale Steyn, who is unlikely to bowl again in the match after he injured his hamstring on the first day.

Philander (one for 116), Morne Morkel (none for 94) and Kyle Abbot (none for 68) managed one wicket for 268 runs between them on an uncharacteristically easy Newlands wicket that seems to have been prepared with ticket and beer revenues in mind, rather than winning this key series.

Exactly one wicket fell in each of the first four sessions of the match. This morning the wicket was that of Steve Smith (84), bowled by Dean Elgar (one for 99), who put on 184 runs for the fourth wicket with his captain. Warner (135) started the onslaught on Saturday morning and Clarke and Smith made sure to keep administering the punishment as they made the most of Australia's winning such a vital toss.

The Proteas have a difficult task ahead as they go about avoiding defeat in this Test. Further bad weather is unlikely and roughly half of the overs lost to rain should be made up but the wicket is still very good for batting. While a home win is virtually inconceivable, the fight for a draw is likely to be a tense one. Johnson is going to be a lot more threatening than he was on the very slow deck that nullified his venom in Port Elizabeth.

<b>Nick Sadleir at Newlands</b>

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