Proteas must stop Clarke from scoringComment on this story
Adelaide - Former captain Ricky Ponting used to be the kingpin of the Australian batting line-up, but it is the man who succeeded him as skipper who now wears the mantle of “prized wicket”.
And if South Africa are to break down this limited - but still tough-as-teak - Australia side in the second Test starting in Adelaide on Thursday, they will have to find a way past the imposing batsmanship of Michael Clarke.
The 31-year-old was named man of the match in the first Test in Brisbane for his third double century of the year - an unbeaten 259 - which saw Australia engineer a remarkable turnaround after being under the cosh for much of the first half of the Test.
Indeed, at 40/3 when he came to the crease, Clarke led a stirring fightback which saw his team overhaul the Proteas’ first innings of 450 by posting a mammoth 565/5 declared.
In the end, South Africa were left hanging on for a draw and the Proteas brainstrust would have spent much of the intervening two weeks plotting how to dismiss the opposition captain.
Clarke is the highest run-scorer in Tests this year, with 1 041 runs from 11 innings at an average of 115.66.
South African paceman Morne Morkel said on Monday he and his fellow fast bowlers were considering unleashing a barrage of short deliveries to try and unsettle Clarke.
“Any batsmen struggles a bit at first with the short ball, so we will probably come up with game plans and start working on those sort of things,” Morkel said.
“Definitely that is one plan, to use a short ball. You have two short balls an over, so why not use it.”
While Clarke, the man dubbed “Pup”, does not possess the searing pulling and hooking prowess of a Ponting in his prime, he does not hold back. He has a sharp eye and his quick reflexes mean he handles himself pretty well against short-pitched bowing.
Morkel admitted they would have to be smart in their approach and not just aimlessly bang it in short.
“We need to use it in a clever way and see how we go. He played very, very well,” Morkel added.
“If we can create more pressure, and try and stop him from rotating strike, that will be key.”