Brisbane – Majestic Michael Clarke unfurled another double century and opener Ed Cowan scored his first Test hundred as Australia batted frazzled South Africa out of the opening Brisbane Test on Monday.
Clarke produced an imperious captain's knock with his third huge innings this year to share in a record stand with Cowan and put the Australians ahead on a batting-friendly Gabba pitch.
At the close of the fourth day, Australia were 487 for four in reply to South Africa's 450, with Clarke unconquered on 218 and Mike Hussey breezing along on 86, giving the home team an outside chance of victory on Tuesday's final day.
Australia were in some danger at the start of the day at 111 for three and trailing the Proteas by 339 runs. But Clarke and Cowan laid the foundations for their team's lead with a record 259-run stand for the fourth wicket.
Clarke continued his flourishing batting form as skipper with his 20th Test hundred and his third double century of the year, after his unbeaten 329 and 210 against India at home in January.
He is the highest scorer in Tests this year with 1,000 runs at 111.11 and as Australian captain is averaging over 60 with the bat.
His stand with Cowan was the highest fourth-wicket partnership by Australia at the Gabba, surpassing Clarke and Mike Hussey's 245-run effort against Sri Lanka in 2007.
It was also the biggest fourth-wicket stand by Australia against South Africa and the fifth biggest overall against the Proteas in Test history.
The partnership was only ended by a freakish run-out of Cowan for 136 shortly before tea. He batted for 388 minutes and hit 18 boundaries.
It was the only wicket South Africa took all day.
The left-hander backed up too far at the non-striker's end and was out when bowler Dale Steyn got his fingers to a stinging Clarke drive and deflected the ball onto the stumps.
It was Cowan's first century in his eighth Test match and dispelled doubts about his Test credentials after coming into the series with an average of 29.86.
Cowan was dropped on 123 by Steyn while hooking Rory Kleinveldt to fine leg.
Steyn appeared to be distracted by Jacques Rudolph going for the catch and was not in position when the ball hit his hands.
Hussey maintained the momentum with his lively undefeated 86 off 109 balls, joining in a rollicking 188-run partnership with Clarke to ram home the advantage.
The vaunted South African bowling attack was toothless at times. Skipper Graeme Smith, without the services of incapacitated part-time spinner JP Duminy, brought his own off-spin into the attack to add variety.
Duminy ruptured his Achilles tendon while warming down after Friday's first day's play and will be out for six months.
The Proteas bowled 22 no-balls with debutant Rory Kleinveldt (11) and Vernon Philander (8) the main culprits, to blow out extras to 34 in the Australian innings. – AFP