Clarke ton keeps Australia afloat

Australia

Michael Clarke was the difference between a decent first-innings score and a mediocre one as his century saw Australia to 214 for eight at stumps on day one of the first Test at Newlands.

Michael Clarke was the difference between a decent first-innings score and a mediocre one as his century saw Australia to 214 for eight at stumps on day one of the first Test at Newlands.

It certainly was a captain's knock from Clarke in trying conditions as his unbeaten 107 and his century partnership with Shaun Marsh helped the visitors to recover following the departures of Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes and Ricky Ponting with just 40 runs on the board.

Dale Steyn and debutant Vernon Philander made sure Graeme Smith decision to bowl first following a one hour and 45 minute delay due to rain was the right one as they removed Watson (three) and Hughes (nine) before lunch. Both openers were squared up with beauties. Watson was first to go as he edged Steyn to Jacques Kallis at second slip, while Philander claimed a wicket when Hughes was caught by Mark Boucher.

Ponting was on his way two overs into the second session as South Africa made the most of the DRS that's available in the series. Umpire Billy Doctrove gave Ponting not out after an lbw shout, but the hosts went upstairs and Hawkeye ticked all three boxes.

After that it was the Clarke show as he hit nine fours en route to his 22nd half-ton from just 56 balls, but his mood at tea was dampened after Marsh, who was a lot more cautious in his approach, was out in the final over before the break for 44. Steyn got one to come back into the the left-hander and although it was referred to the television umpire, the original decision was only confirmed.

The wicket lifted the South Africans and they continued to chip away in the final session with Michael Hussey and Brad Haddin coming and going in quick succession. Clarke, though, stood firm and his 16th four of the innings brought up his 16th Test century off 108 balls.

Philander removed Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris as Australia slipped to eight down. With the light fading, the umpires opted to take the players off and it wasn't before long before the heavens opened up again and the day finished the same way it started: with heavy downpours.

Philander finished his first day in Test cricket with three for 54, but Dale Steyn was certainly the pick of the bowlers with four for 31. Philander's fellow newcomer Imran Tahir finished wicketless in his six overs.

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