Clarke pulls up sore after century
Victoria 378 and 7 for 242 (McDonald 100*, Cameron 3-64) lead New South Wales 263 (Clarke 113, Holland 3-70) by 357 runs
Michael Clarke warmed up for the first Ashes Test with a century but the Sheffield Shield's form batsman, Andrew McDonald, compiled his second hundred of the match to drive Victoria into a strong position with a day to play. Clarke's 113 was the only bright spot in the New South Wales innings, but it wasn't all good news for him either, as he didn't field in the afternoon due to back stiffness.
Clarke said he was "not too concerned" by the problem that flared after the first day. "I pulled up a little bit stiff [again] today, so we thought obviously with what's coming up I'm better off just doing the right things and I had some treatment," he said after play. "I've got to see how it pulls up tomorrow morning, but hopefully I'll be right to get back out there."
The hosts' problems continued when the fast bowler Mitchell Starc was sidelined by a side-strain injury. Starc is expected to be out for at least four weeks, ending any slim hope he had of becoming an Ashes bolter following his strong ODI showing against Sri Lanka. He will now be unavailable for the Australia A match against England next week and his absence left the Blues a bowler down.
Without Starc, Stuart Clark made the unusual decision to hand Nathan Hauritz the new ball, which was a brave move given Hauritz's struggles in the first innings. It proved an inspired choice, and the Australian selectors might thank Clark for his creativity after Hauritz bowled himself back into some sort of form by picking up two early wickets.
Hauritz had Michael Hill lbw for 8 and then took a ripping return catch when David Hussey (9) smashed the ball straight back towards the bowler. However, the Victorians recovered through Rob Quiney and McDonald, before Quiney was snapped up at slip by the substitute Peter Forrest off the bowling of Shane Watson for 49.
McDonald continued to pile up the runs and had support from Matthew Wade, who made 40 before he was one of three victims for Mark Cameron. McDonald stuck around until stumps and brought up century from the second-last ball with a single off Hauritz, to leave Victoria at 7 for 242, with an advantage of 357.
But New South Wales are not without a chance of chasing almost any target, given the quality of their batting line-up. Usman Khawaja is the only player in the top eight who has not played Test cricket, although he has toured with the Test squad during their series against Pakistan in England this year.
The strong batting group made it all the more surprising that they conceded a 115-run first-innings lead to Victoria. Clarke was the only man who made more than 30, and after some lower-order support from Steven Smith, who made 18, and Hauritz (27), the rest of the tail offered little resistance.
Clarke was the last man out, caught behind off Peter Siddle, who collected 2 for 55. The left-arm spinner Jon Holland, whose selection is a strong indication that the veteran Bryce McGain could be running of chances at state level, picked up 3 for 70.