Clarke says Australia face uphill battle

On top: A.B. de Villiers of South Africa. Photo: Morne de Klerk
On top: A.B. de Villiers of South Africa. Photo: Morne de Klerk

Michael Clarke admitted Australia faced an "uphill battle" to win the second Test at St George's Park, with the home team boasting a lead of 369 runs with six second-innings wickets in hand for the remaining two days of the match.

"We haven't bowled as well as we would have liked and we certainly haven't batted anywhere near as well as we need to to have a chance of winning this Test," Clarke said.

Clarke said he has challenged himself and his fellow batsmen to finish the second innings in Port Elizabeth by making South Africa's bowlers work harder.

Clarke's dismissal for 19 earlier in the day was arguably Australia's worst for the match, as the Test captain spooned a catch to cover off Vernon Philander.

In a post match press conference, the skipper decried his "extremely poor" shot selection amid other batting errors from the visitors.

Asked about Australia's position in the match with two days remaining, Clarke replied: "I think we can still win. It's obviously going to be an uphill battle, there's no doubt about that, but that will be determined by how many runs we have to chase I guess."

The cause of Australia's vast deficit was it managing only 246 in response to the Proteas' first innings of 423, surviving for just under a third of the 150.5 overs the Proteas did in their first innings.

A sparkling 93 not out from Hashim Amla was the key to South Africa finishing day three at 4-192 after 47 overs.

While Mitch Johnson was clearly the most threatening bowler in the first Test in Centurion in Port Elizabeth that mantle has been taken by Morne Morkel. The towering right-armer achieved significant bounce from a pitch that had appeared docile throughout the home team's first innings, often striking Australian batsmen to the body in claiming 3-63 from 17 hostile overs.

Morkel rejected suggestions his approach was payback for left-armer Johnson's similar tactics to the Proteas' batsmen last week.

"I really enjoy bowling around the wicket. I can hold my shape a lot better," Morkel explained.

"The reason I bowled the majority of my overs around the wicket at him was I just felt it gave me a little bit more of an option. It was a different angle, and an awkward angle to face.

"We experienced our fair share [of that type of bowling] in Centurion and on this sort of wicket you need to try those sort of things. It worked nicely for me."

The two complicating factors for South Africa pursuing victory, which is necessary to keep alive the possibility of it securing a home series win against Australia for the first time since the team's readmission, are the weather and a minor groin injury that is set to prevent left-armer Wayne Parnell from bowling for the rest of this match. The weather forecast says there is an 80 per cent chance of rain on the final day.

"It's a big blow. Wayne knows these conditions very, very well and the way he started off was good - his first spell was fantastic. He's also a guy that can swing the ball," Morkel said.

"Unfortunately it doesn't look like Wayne is going to bowl so we need to take a look at overs, and workloads and those sorts of things. But at the end of the day there's a Test match there to be won and if we have to put that extra bit of effort in then the bowling unit will do that."

Morkel admitted the unfavourable forecast would affect when the team decided to declare, although he added that "it always seems that 450 is the magic number when it comes to declarations".

"We need to bat smartly. I think there's a bit of rain forecast for Monday . . . [it] is not looking too great. But the most important thing is we respect the game now, session by session. We need to start well tomorrow and assess it from there," the paceman said.

Clarke argued the absence of Parnell could have a bigger influence on the result than the weather, but warned that would only happen if Australia's batsmen could survive long enough to tire Morkel and his fellow fast-bowlers Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.

"I don't think we can worry too much about the weather, I think that will take care of itself. But if Parnell's not fit to bowl I think that will have an impact, there's no doubt about it.

"But we've got to be able to take our batting as deep as possible," he said.

"If you've only got three fast-bowlers and you're bringing them back for their third and fourth spells you're giving yourself a chance. We didn't do that in the first innings."

South Africa (1st Innings) 423

Australia (1st Innings - overnight 4-112)
C ROGERS lbw b Philander 5
D WARNER c Smith b Philander 70
A DOOLAN c de Villiers b Parnell 8
S MARSH c de Villiers b Parnell 0
M CLARKE c Elgar b Philander 19
N LYON b Morkel 15
S SMITH c de Villiers b Morkel 49
B HADDIN b Steyn 9
M JOHNSON b Duminy 27
R HARRIS c du Plessis b Morkel 26
P SIDDLE not out 11
Sundries (4lb, 2w, 1nb) 7
Total 246
Fall of wickets: 7 (Rogers), 41 (Doolan), 41 (Marsh), 81 (Clarke), 120 (Warner), 128 (Lyon), 168 (Haddin), 205 (Johnson), 209 (Smith), 246 (Harris)
Bowling: D Steyn 13-3-55-1, V Philander 13-0-68-3, M Morkel 17-0-63-3 (1w/2 1nb), W Parnell 8.3-2-31-2, D Elgar 0.3-0-1-0, J Duminy 5-0-24-1.

South Africa (2nd Innings)

G SMITH b Johnson 14
D ELGAR c Haddin b Siddle 16
H AMLA not out 93
F du PLESSIS c Haddin b Siddle 24
AB de VILLIERS c Haddin b Johnson 29
Q de KOCK not out 9

Sundries (2b, 5lb) 7
Total 4-192
Overs 47
Fall of wickets: 20 (Smith), 42 (Elgar), 112 (du Plessis), 167 (de Villiers)
Bowling: M Johnson 12-0-48-2, R Harris 10-1-53-0, N Lyon 12-2-31-0, P Siddle 13-2-53-2

This story Clarke says Australia face uphill battle first appeared on Canberra Times.