South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Cape Town, 1st day November 9, 2011

We wanted to target Clarke - Steyn

Dale Steyn, the South Africa fast bowler, said his side had planned to target Australia's captain Michael Clarke in bowler-friendly conditions in Cape Town. Steyn bowled a particularly aggressive spell to Clarke after lunch in which he repeatedly bowled short deliveries that Clarke played and missed at. There were also a few words between the two.

"We want to really come hard at someone like Clarke," Steyn said. "He is a young skipper. That's the thing you do with any team if they've got a new leader in conditions that are pretty tough. When he came out there, we went at him hard. If you can cut the head off the leader, the rest of the body might fall apart."

This time, though, Clarke kept his head and went on to score a century. Clarke said Steyn was one of the fielders who shook his hand after he reached his century, evidence of the friendship the two teams share off the pitch.

The duel between Steyn and Clarke began after Clarke's predecessor, Ricky Ponting, departed shortly after lunch. At that stage, with Australia 40 for 3, South Africa's tails were up and Steyn said they wanted to justify Graeme Smith's decision to field first, especially when his opposite number came in. "When the opposition captain comes out and it's a tricky situation, you really want to show why you stuck the opposition in."

Smith's choice had already been vindicated when Steyn and new-ball partner Vernon Philander took a wicket each in the first six overs. Both Shane Watson and Phil Hughes were caught in the slips, after being beaten by swing and seam respectively, cutting short battles that were expected to last longer. Ponting was dismissed lbw by Steyn, after a review, and Steyn said it was an important dismissal because Ponting's demeanour at the crease looked ominous. "He looks a little bit different. Maybe it is giving up the captaincy. He looks like he's had a load taken off his shoulders." Smith decided to review the decision even though Steyn did not appear to appeal initially. "Things happen pretty quickly when you are trying to run in and bowl fast," Steyn said. "You look down and when you look up again the ball has hit the pads and you're not sure how close it is."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent