BRISBANE: A series opener that was supposed to showcase two fast and furious pace bowling attacks ended with South Africa batting grimly through the last five hours to ensure a draw after Michael Clarke’s bold bid for an unlikely Australian win on the last day.
It wasn’t because ball was dominant over bat.
Clarke scored an unbeaten 259 — the highest Test score ever at the Gabba — and then declared after establishing a 115-run lead.
Graeme Smith’s top-ranked South Africans had been in a dominant position late Sunday, posting 450 on either side of a washed out second day before having Australia in deep trouble at 40-3. But the match turned on Clarke’s bat — his third 200-plus innings in seven tests in 2012 — and his partnerships of 259 with Ed Cowan (136) and Mike Hussey (100).
After resuming yesterday at 487-4, Clarke declared at 565-5 an hour before lunch, setting up an intriguing last five hours.
In the end, South Africa finished at 166-5 with AB de Villiers unbeaten on 29 and ushering them to safety after the departures of Alviro Petersen (5), Graeme Smith (23), Hashim Amla (38), Jacques Kallis (49) and Jacques Rudolph (11).
The Gabba pitch failed to generate much bounce or movement off the seam, with batsmen dominating on a benign surface for most of the test match. Five batsmen scored centuries, with Clarke and Cowan combining well under pressure and Hussey coming in late to lift the run-rate for Australia after Kallis (147) and Amla (104) joined forces to get the South Africans away to a decent start.
Clarke was impressive, scoring his sixth hundred since becoming test captain last year moving to 1,041 runs from seven tests, at an average of 115.66, in 2012.
Windies seizes control
In Dhaka, Kieran Powell and Shivnarine Chanderpaul struck centuries to push West Indies toward a big total in the first innings of the first Test against Bangladesh yesterday.
The tourists reached 361-4 at the close on the opening day with Chanderpaul unbeaten on 123 alongside Denesh Ramdin (52 not out), having completed his 26th test century.
Powell was earlier out for 117 after Bangladesh had put West Indies in a spot of trouble with three wickets in the morning session.
The left-hander, making his second century, added 125 runs with Chanderpaul for the fourth wicket as the duo batted out the second session to restore order for West Indies, who won the toss and elected to bat.
The home side opened the bowling with debutant Sohag Gazi, who was greeted by Chris Gayle with a big six over long on off his very first delivery.
Gayle hit him for another six in the fourth ball to finish the first over with 18 runs on the board but Gazi had the last laugh when he took the wicket of the left-hander in the fifth over.
Mahmudullah took the catch at long off as Gayle mistimed off a flighted delivery to depart for 24.
Gazi thought he had other opener Powell for seven but the left-hander was given a reprieve after the ball hit the helmet of the silly point fielder before heading toward Rubel Hossain, who dived to his left for a sharp catch.
Darren Bravo, however, had no such luck as the same fielder took the catch off Gazi to dismiss him on 14.
Bangladesh took the honors in the opening session when Shahadat Hossain dismissed Marlon Samuels for 16 with Gazi this time showing his skill as a fielder by taking a diving catch in the deep.
The hosts’ advantage slipped away though in the wicketless second session dominated by Powell and Chanderpaul.
Powell completed his century sweeping left-arm spinner Shakib Al Hasan to the fine-leg boundary to go to the break on 115 not out.
The 22-year old, however, could add only two runs to his score on the resumption after tea before he missed the line of a Gazi delivery and was clean bowled.
His 178-ball innings contained 18 fours and a six off Gazi over mid-off.