South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town March 1, 2014

Clarke guts earns Warne praise


Michael Clarke and Shane Warne are two of the world's more vocal advocates of aggressive, vibrant cricket. But on day one at Newlands, Clarke chose guts over flair, earning Warne's rich praise for the kind of brave occupation on which Test series victories are won.

After taking a fearful battering from Morne Morkel, the toll of which on Warne's count was "four or five" ice packs in the dressing room, Clarke steadied to reach 92 not out, ending a run of slim scores that dated back to the second Ashes Test during the home summer and placing his team in a fine position to press for a Test match and series victory over South Africa.

"I think there was four, maybe five ice packs so I think he'll be stiff and sore tonight," Warne said of Clarke. "I think he might be drinking chocolate milkshakes because his jaw might be a bit sore too. He's in a bit of pain, a bit of agony, you cop four or five blows like that, it's going to hurt at 150kph.

"I'm very proud of Michael today, it was great to see him show that courage. There's been a bit of talk about him not making some runs so it would've been easy for him at that stage when your eyes are spinning and you're getting hit like that to try and say 'I'm going to hit my way out of this and take them on'. He went the other way, hung in there and showed a lot of courage. At the end of the day he played like we know he can."

Warne observed that Morkel's spell in mid-afternoon was made doubly threatening by early evidence of inconsistent bounce, a partial explanation for the blows Clarke sustained. But that also meant that Australia's stumps score of 331 for 3 has already taken on critical dimensions for the hosts, who may have lost Dale Steyn to a hamstring strain.

"I thought Morne was bowling a pretty hostile spell, up and down wicket, some were flying through and the next one wouldn't get up. Been hit in the ear, jaw, head, fingers. So it would have been easy to play a shot to try to stop that, but he hung in," Warne said. "It looks like he said 'you know what? Over my dead body, you have to keep hitting me if you want until I can't stand up'. He showed a lot of courage in that situation given 1-1 in the series to then stand up to that fantastic spell from Morne was wonderful and then be not out at the end, had Australia in a very good position.

"There's a lot at stake, South Africa are No. 1 in the world, you've just copped a hiding and been outplayed in all departments, you've won a very good toss on a good wicket. If you batted poorly today you've nearly lost the Test match on those conditions because it's going to get a lot worse, it will go up and down and spin. If Australia can score a good first innings they'll be in a really good position."

Warne expressed some surprise at South Africa's reluctance to play a spinner in this match, reckoning that Australia might have played two themselves if another had been selected in the Test squad to accompany Nathan Lyon. He also indicated that Mitchell Johnson was eager to try his luck at exploiting the variable bounce Morkel had extracted.

"On that pitch it was so dry and would have been ready yesterday, I think the spinner's going to play a role," Warne said. "South Africa obviously back their quickies and think Duminy and the left-armer [Dean Elgar] can do a job on that pitch. But I think if Australia had a couple of spinners they might have played them as well, given Shane Watson was available too. Seeing how dry it was we saw it as a definite turner."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Fala on March 2, 2014, 23:05 GMT

    hats off to MC for the courage and determination. Steve Waugh did the exactly the same facing not just one hostile bowler but three fast bowler, Ambrose, Walsh, and Holding. That was the series which started the end of the West Indies era of domination and they never recovered since then .Likewise this could be the end of SA dominance at the top. Keep it up MC you are the best.

  • Android on March 2, 2014, 6:21 GMT

    So finally it appears to be settling an issue that Philander is just not the kind of bowler his stats show. Stats can be misleading as they do in the case of India's Ashwin.

    He might be a very good bowler but not the impact bowler. He seems to have reaped the rewards which should have gone to Morkel instead.

    phew!!! Cricket is a funny as well as cruel game. By stats M Morkel pales in comparison to Vernon, but is he really so bad? The difference is there for everyone to see.

  • Nathan on March 2, 2014, 2:53 GMT

    The great thing for Australia is that now that the top order has set up the innings, Watto and Haddin can come in and play their natural aggressive game, and take the innings away from SA - quickly!

    The only disappointing thing about this series is that it's only 3 matches. With test cricket of this calibre the world deserves to see a 4 or 5 test series.

  • Dummy on March 2, 2014, 2:17 GMT

    Vernon philander has the stats to suggest he is a very good bowler but I have not seen any of that this series. He has nothing to him. He swings it a bit with new ball but seems to have no tricks and skills of a bowler. No real variation in pace. No offcutters or yorkers or anything different and he bowls a lot of pies. I dont know why he even experimented bowling short to warner.

  • Neil on March 2, 2014, 1:42 GMT

    Test cricket at its best. Hats off to both teams. Wonderful spell by Morne Morkel and fantastic batting by Michael Clarke. Even with all the hostility flying around, it was wonderful to see the concern expressed by SA when Pup went down after getting a severe blow.

  • Tim on March 1, 2014, 22:36 GMT

    So the poms, South Africans and the rest of the world want to know how to play short pitched hostile bowling at around 150km/h when you don't have confidence in your pull shot, they just got a master class from pup. Get behind the line of the ball, drop your hands as much as possible and be prepared to wear a few. And then when you get through the tough spell, cash in. They were hard test runs and smith, cook, and the rest who struggled against Mitch should take note.

  • django on March 1, 2014, 22:27 GMT

    One of the greatest innings I have seen. Hats off to morne too, that was some seriously hostile bowling. For the first time in my life I was actually genuinely worried for a bats men's health. Seen pup score plenty of runs but none as good as that.

  • Pete on March 1, 2014, 22:23 GMT

    I love the gratuitous touch about two spinners - classic Warnie. No, Australia are very happy to have the extra half a quick in Watson, and wouldn't want to go in with two and a half. But, as usual with Warne, he manages to demonstrate superior analysis, merely topped off with an endearing oddball aside. RSA surely don't have enough bowling without Steyn, but I was wrong about that when they were a quick down in Pt Betty.

  • Dal on March 1, 2014, 20:10 GMT

    Watched it and it was Test Cricket at its best, Pup looked clueless for a while but didn't lose courage or walk across his wicket, he faced up to the challenge like a man, hung in there and reaped the rewards after wards.

    Great Cricket