South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 2nd day March 2, 2014

Rain intervenes after Clarke passes 150

Kimber: And then came the rain

Australia 494 for 7 (Clarke 161*, Warner 135, Smith 84, Duminy 4-73) v South Africa
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

On day one it was a test of the body, on day two of the mind. Michael Clarke brought up a hard-fought century after spending 24 balls stuck on 99, but rain halved the second day's play in Cape Town and left Australia wondering how they could make their hefty first innings a winning score with only three days still to play and South Africa yet to bat.

When the tablecloth billowed out over the mountain and brought rain an hour into the second session, the players ran off the field with Australia at 494 for 7. Clarke was unbeaten on 161, Ryan Harris was on 4 and JP Duminy was improbably on a hat-trick after claiming three wickets in the session. But the likelihood of a rain-induced declaration meant he would probably have to wait until the second innings for his chance.

Australia's best hope of victory might be to avoid even requiring a second innings. But on a pitch that remained good for batting the odds of a draw, and thus a drawn series, shortened with the loss of three hours of play. Before the weather intervened, Clarke moved past 150 for the tenth time in his Test career, Steven Smith missed the chance for a fifth Test hundred and South Africa continued to struggle without the injured Dale Steyn.

Duminy finished the day with 4 for 73, including three wickets after lunch as the Australians sought to lift their run-rate following the strong start provided by the top order. For the first time since the Boxing Day Test of 2009 against Pakistan, Australia began a Test innings with five consecutive partnerships of 50-plus as South Africa initially continued their unwanted trend of managing only one wicket per session.

In his first innings of the series, Shane Watson made his intentions clear by striking three sixes in a 32-ball 40 but he departed when he tried to go over the top once too often, holing out to long-off from the bowling of Duminy. Brad Haddin (13) also chipped a catch to mid-off off Duminy and next ball Mitchell Johnson was out on review when South Africa asked for a replay and found he had tickled a catch down leg side.

However, that was the last ball of Duminy's over and the rain arrived before he had the chance to push for a hat-trick, leaving him wondering whether he could become only the second South African after Geoff Griffin in 1960 to achieve the feat. Duminy's wickets were too late to have any real impact, though, and the morning was all about Clarke and his desire to reach triple figures after surviving a bouncer barrage from Morne Morkel on Saturday.

Clarke began the morning on 92 but took nearly 50 minutes to reach his hundred as Kyle Abbott tied him down with disciplined bowling after he moved with one run of the milestone. On 99, Clarke faced 23 deliveries from Abbott and one from Philander before he finally brought up his century with a drive to the cover boundary when Philander over-pitched, ending a nervous period that featured a few aborted run attempts - and near run-outs - and a couple of edgy wafts.

There was also a leave to an Abbott delivery that fizzed just over the top of the stumps; having not scored a hundred since the Adelaide Ashes Test, Clarke seemed as nervy as a man trying for his first, not his 27th. After he reached the hundred the runs started to come a little more freely and he played a couple of superb cover-drives off Abbott, and moved past 150 with another boundary pulled through midwicket off Abbott.

It was Smith who had done most of the scoring while Clarke was in the nervous nineties. Of particular note was Smith's aerial driving down the ground against the fast men - he cleared the boundary off both Philander and Morkel but there was little risk involved in the strokes as he struck the ball cleanly and followed through perfectly down the line. His 184-run stand with Clarke ended when he played on to a skiddy ball from Dean Elgar on 84.

That Elgar and Duminy, both part-time spinners, were South Africa's only wicket takers on the second day, was notable. Hamstrung by Steyn's hamstring strain, Graeme Smith had to rotate through the bowlers as best he could but their spearhead was sorely missed. Steyn did not take the field at all on day two, although he was considered an outside chance of bowling in Australia's second innings. South Africa just have to make sure there is one.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here