David Warner (right) and Michael Clarke have battered the South African pacers on Day 1 of the 3rd Test © Getty Images
By Abhishek Mukherjee
Mar 1, 2014
Australia finished Day One on an emphatic 331 for three, and are well on their way to bat South Africa out of the Test. David Warner has set up the tone with his 135, and Michael Clarke (92) and Steven Smith (50) ensured there were no hiccups towards the end.
South Africa received a major blow when Dale Steyn left the ground with an injured hamstring. He did not return for the rest of the day, is unlikely to take field in the innings, and any chance of him bowling in the Test seems remote.
The day started with Warner and Chris Rogers going after the bowling, piling up 43 in the first six overs. Warner, complete with fluorescent orange on his helmet, gloves, and other gear, resembled like a VLC Player icon in his cricket whites: he took 17 off the first two overs from Steyn, who had to be taken off.
Rogers supported Warner ably till Graeme Smith brought Steyn back: Steyn bowled a perfect length, sucking Rogers to a drive for a ball that was not full enough, and AB de Villiers did the rest behind the stumps. Warner continued to dominate while Alex Doolan settled down, and the pair took went to lunch at 118 for one.
Doolan threw away the opportunity of a big score when he top-edged a pull off Vernon Philander and Steyn took the skier easily. There was little joy for South Africa as disaster followed when Steyn left field having pulled a hamstring after bowling 10.1 overs.
Morne Morkel was not willing to give up, and coming from around the stumps he bombarded Clarke with bouncers: he hit him on his arm, helmet, and gloves as a shaky Clarke went into tea. Warner, meanwhile, had brought him his seventh Test hundred and was looking hungry for more.
Morkel lost his venom after tea and stuck to a more conventional angle and field-setting. Australia were cruising along, and a inexplicably long spell from Dean Elgar allowed Clarke to get his eye in. Warner looked all set for a double when Smith re-introduced JP Duminy: he struck with his fourth ball.
Warner plodded at one outside off and de Villiers clung on to it for dear life as the ball rebounded off his chest. He held it at second attempt as a dejected Warner returned to the pavilion for an emphatic 135. He had dominated proceedings till then and had looked all set for his double-hundred when Duminy managed to break through.
Steyn’s absence and Kyle Abbott’s largely ineffective bowling hurt South Africa badly, and the onus was on Philander and Morkel to provide with the breakthrough. Smith had no option but to use them in short bursts.
Elgar and Duminy turned out to be largely ineffective, and when Smith eventually claimed the second new ball after 82 overs Clarke and Smith cut loose with five boundaries from two overs of Philander and Morkel. Morkel came back strongly to hit Clarke on his right thumb, but Smith uppercut him for four to bring up his fifty later that over.
Australia 331 for 3 (David Warner 135, Michael Clarke 92*, Steven Smith 50*; Dale Steyn 1 for 44, JP Duminy 1 for 37) vs South Africa.
(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)