'Overdue' Clarke toasts gutsy 161*
An "overdue" Michael Clarke spent much of the night being treated by Australia's physio Alex Kountouris and team doctor Peter Brukner due to the fearful blows from Morne Morkel, something that will make his 27th Test century remembered as one of his very finest.
Though reluctant to discuss detail of the injuries sustained by Morkel's battering, particularly the question of whether he suffered any concussion after twice being struck about the head, Clarke admitted he would not have been able to continue his innings without the fastidious care of Kountouris and Brukner, who each had ventured onto the field at various points on day one.
"Plenty of treatment, plenty of ice and I'm fortunate to have Alex the physio and the Doc [Peter Brukner] help me out," Clarke said. "It was a long night, a longer morning to be honest, but I'm in great hands. Without their help, no way would I have got on the park today.
"It's obviously very satisfying to contribute in this series. I was overdue, any time you make a hundred for Australia it's good. I've never had a bad one. There were some tough stages there yesterday, I thought Morne Morkel bowled a couple of pretty quick spells when he went around the wicket and tried to attack the emblem on my helmet, the bounce was a little inconsistent so it wasn't easy to consistently duck or hook and pull.
"I have been hit plenty of times through my career, maybe not so many times in one spell, but that's the way it goes. So that was a bit difficult at the time so it was nice to get through, most importantly we have had one and a half days of Test cricket and we have 494 runs on the board, so I am extremely pleased with the position we are in."
Before he could reach his century, Clarke had to weather a tight spell from the South African seamer Kyle Abbott, who kept him scoreless for three overs in a row amid a 24-ball wait on 99. Clarke eventually made it to the other end where he laced Vernon Philander through cover to reach the milestone, his 13th hundred as captain of Australia.
"It didn't really bother me to be honest," Clarke said. "Our goal today was to try and bat exactly like we did yesterday up until lunch and then assess where the game was at. So it wasn't about my runs personally, it was making sure I was seeing that new ball off and doing the job for the team. Fortunately I was able to get that period."
Clarke is now left to ponder the timing of a declaration, given that more than three hours of play were lost to rain on the second afternoon. He left open the possibility of batting on early on day three, the better to ensure his side does not have to bat again in their pursuit of a series-sealing victory.
"I want to see what the weather's like more than anything else in the morning," he said. "The advantage now is we start at 10am every day, so we'll still get some overs back. The forecast is pretty good for the next three days. I'll have a good chat to Boof tonight. Obviously our goal is to win this Test match, so if that means batting for some time and getting as many runs as we can if we think it's the best way to win we'll do that. If we think declaring overnight is the best way then it doesn't bother me.
"We hope that the wicket's going to deteriorate and there's more up and down [bounce]. Hopefully some reverse swing and a little bit of spin as the game goes on. You've got to sum up runs in your first innings versus how tough they're going to be in second innings, how much time's left in the game, what the weather's like. A few things to consider, but the most important thing is how you're going to win."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here