South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Johannesburg, 5th day November 21, 2011

Will remember this Test for a long time - Clarke


Just over a week ago, Australia were bowled out for 47. It was an indignity that had not been suffered by men in the baggy green in more than a century. They lost the Cape Town Test before lunch on the third afternoon. The bright future that beckoned Michael Clarke's side after their series victory in Sri Lanka seemed to have been extinguished. It was standing-room only in the last-chance saloon.

Early on Sunday, things didn't look much better. Australia trailed by 209 and South Africa had seven wickets in hand. At 1-0 up, they could bat like Bill Lawry and still take the series. In a previous era, Shane Warne or Glenn McGrath might have taken the ball and forced the match in a different direction. In more recent times, winning from such a poor position has been next to impossible.

Few spectators expected a gettable chase. But a six-wicket haul from the teenager Pat Cummins set up a target of 310, and half-centuries from the under-pressure Ricky Ponting and Brad Haddin, as well as the rookie Usman Khawaja, set up Australia's win. Mitchell Johnson, whose bowling has been poor and makes him no certainty for the first Test of the home summer against New Zealand, got Australia home along with Cummins.

Last week, Clarke bemoaned a loss that was as painful as any he had experienced. The contrast could hardly have been more apparent after Australia's two-wicket win, the highest successful chase ever achieved at the Wanderers, and a victory that concluded in fading light late on the fifth afternoon.

"I didn't score many runs in this Test match but it feels like I just got my first double hundred for Australia, I couldn't be happier," Clarke said. "This is one of my greatest Test matches, no doubt. A big part of that is the way we got beaten in Cape Town. To be able to fight back and the rollercoaster throughout the Tests, the light, the weather, the chasing, the record last-innings total, for so many reasons it's one of my most special Test matches and I'll remember it for a long time."

Winning from any position was a hallmark of the great Australia sides of the past. Clarke's side is not great, but this victory will give them confidence. Young men like Cummins, Khawaja, Phillip Hughes and Nathan Lyon might just begin to believe that they are never beaten. The challenge is not to fall backwards.

Late in 2008, Graeme Smith's side chased down 414 at the WACA to beat Australia, and although they won the series, within four months they had lost to Australia at home as their self-belief waned. Australia's next series is against New Zealand, and that will be followed by a tough four-Test battle against India.

"To be able to fight back and the rollercoaster throughout the Tests, the light, the weather, the chasing, the record last-innings total, for so many reasons it's one of my most special Test matches."

"I think it will certainly help, we will continue to grow in confidence," Clarke said. "I said after Sri Lanka we would bring confidence into this series because of our success there and I hope we do the same; take momentum into the Australian summer. There will be some challenges that lie ahead and we've already seen that in Sri Lanka and on this tour, but we're getting better."

Not that it wasn't a nervous time for Australia as the chase came down to the wire. Clarke was bowled early on the final day, the victim of a fine ball from Vernon Philander, but also through a significant gap between bat and pad. When Ponting fell for 62, Australia still needed 145 runs with five wickets in hand. Clarke had been nervous the previous day; he was even jumpier on Monday.

"I started counting the runs down from 190 [required] yesterday," Clarke said. "I was next in the batting, I was walking back and forth while the boys were batting, they would get a single and I would say '189 more of those, Huss', '188 more of those, Huss'. When I came here today I thought we were in a really good position. I thought the way Usman and Ricky batted the night before was outstanding.

"They played really positive cricket so I was confident we could win the game today. I would have liked Ricky and I to have spent more time out in the middle but that's the way it goes. A lot of credit goes to our middle order batting in tough overcast conditions with a bit of rain around. We managed to hang in there and the youngster [Cummins] decided as he did in the one-day series to finish it off with ease."

As a result, Australia will fly home without having lost the series in any format on this trip. It is an outcome that has left Clarke proud and buoyant. "We drew the Twenty20 series, we've won the one-day series and now we have drawn the Test series against a fantastic opposition in their own backyard," he said. "We should be so proud of that. That's an amazing performance by Australian cricket in my opinion."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Randolph on November 24, 2011, 10:20 GMT

    @5wombats - I have got them covered mate. Their under performing, record chasing, flat track, dead rubber specialists will have nothhing on the greatest cricketing nation of all time.

  • Martin on November 23, 2011, 15:04 GMT

    @Meety - hey mate! Look; @Gerard Pereira & @Full-Blooded-Wallop are just a couple of the hundreds of jokers headed your way in a few weeks. Be interesting to see how Aus fans deal with them. You'd think that thrashing them would be the way to pursuade them - but as you rightly point out, there's always an excuse. And within a few weeks - they forget it ever happened!

  • Randolph on November 23, 2011, 12:47 GMT

    @Meety, the funny think is, we could send out our D side against India and still smash them. They've NEVER won a series here, and that ain't changing!

  • Andrew on November 23, 2011, 6:56 GMT

    @Full-Blooded-Wallop - I agree that I haven't seen YOU give excuses, I was commenting on the flood of comments that were making excuses. For what its worth I am hoping for a good hard fought series, like the previous tours in Oz. IMO - this is India's last chance to beat Oz in Oz in a series for a while. I remember back in the mid 80s when Gavaskar or Dev led an Indian side that flogged us everywhere except on the scoreboard, too scared to go for a win & I thought back then they'll never come close to us again in Oz (not so), I also said 4 years ago to an Indian co-worker that as long as my preverbial points to the ground - India will NEVER beat us at the WACA, I got that wrong too, but despite that I am very confident that India can only win this series on the back of their aging legends piling up squillions of runs & putting Oz under scoreboard pressure. A fully fit Zaheer would also have to play out of his skin. I think Oz will have an attack that will test some aging reflexes!

  • Nitin on November 23, 2011, 4:15 GMT

    @meety: My friend, 2-1 escaped my mind,was thinking of 1-1. And no, I am not the one who gives excuses.A win is a win and a loss is a loss, whatever the factors causing it :) and regarding rest comments of yours, let time decideth it all!

  • Brenton on November 23, 2011, 2:16 GMT

    Watson is a bowling all rounder. Surely he has to drop down the order to 4 or 5 so he can bowl more? He is our only bowler at the moment who has the capacity to consistently get top wickets and he has a history of injuries if overworked....... Batting order if all are fit: Hughes, Marsh, Khawaja, Clarke, Watson, Hussey, Paine, Johnson, Cummins, Harris, Lyon.

  • Andrew on November 23, 2011, 0:53 GMT

    @Gerard Pereira - ":Is Bucknor in the Australian team..." - that my friend is the real reason why the BCCI won't use UDRS. So that "fans" like you can whinge if you don't get the "result" you want. Well the other REAL reason is that the BCCI doesn't have a patent on any of the technology & will only approve it once they have the rights to a cheaper & inferior version that always gives Green Lights when Sachin is batting!

  • Andrew on November 23, 2011, 0:49 GMT

    @Full-Blooded-Wallop - "we accepted we lost, fair and square." - no judging by the gazillion comments that came in describing the Test team as a B,C or D side, clearly the majority of Indian fans did not accept the scoreline. "But if you see the last two series against Australia. We thrashed them 2-0 at home.." Hmmm a thrashing 2nil hey, when that included a 1 wicket win where had there been a UDRS in place Oz probably would of won the 1st Test & the 2nd Test involved India chasing over 200 to win - historically not an easy assignment. The last series played in Oz - Oz won 2-1, but you probably refuse to accept that because "we wuz robbed". The series before in Oz was 1 all - but do you hear any Oz fans saying stuff like that was an Oz C side because Warne & McGrath didn't play? Nope - it was a drawn series.

  • Andrew on November 23, 2011, 0:43 GMT

    @ Full-Blooded-Wallop - I am assuming you are doing to us what RandyOz did to you with the (all out for 10 joke) - by stating that "... fearsome attack of aaron,yadav,ishant,zaheer(if fit) and ashwin..." Its funny that, given the WIndies - a modern day minnow, batted a whole day losing just 2 wickets to 3 of the bowlers you just mentioned. Also - there is nothing fearsome about the Indian attack. Zaheer is a very good exponant of seam & swing & if fully fit, will be capable of taking wickets. Ishant Sharma has struggled against good opposition since his Ozzy summer, he will need a massive form reversal to trouble Oz. Aarun & Yadav have some talent & did tour Oz recently in an emerging XI tournament, but they will get slaughtered. If you think Ashwin is going to trouble us - have a look at the best Indian spinners have done over the last 50 years, even Prassanna was below his best & averaged about 30+. Ashwin or Bhajji will not trouble Oz!

  • Subba on November 22, 2011, 17:12 GMT

    SA lost this test, more than Australia winning it. As for the India series, the Oz will find it impossible to bowl out the Indian batting twice. India will lose only if they are careless, and they are quite prone to mindless playing.

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