The captain remains unbeaten on an outstanding 218 and, together with opener Ed Cowan (136) and veteran Michael Hussey (86), got Australia out of jail to finish at 487 for four at stumps on day four — with a first-innings lead of 37 runs. At one stage on Sunday, they were 40 for three chasing South Africa’s 450.
A draw remains the most likely result, but since Australia cannot lose from here, Clarke said he will roll the dice on a flat Gabba wicket and declare in the morning. “I definitely think we can have a crack at winning. It’s worth a go, in my opinion,” he told reporters after the close of play.
“The key is tomorrow (Tuesday) morning to be nice and positive and see how we go leading up to lunch. We’ll give ourselves a couple of sessions to try and bowl South Africa out. We’re going to need a lot of things to go our way. “We’ll wait and see what the weather’s like. Hopefully the sun’s out and the wicket deteriorates a little bit more as well.
“It’s still pretty good for batting, though, so we’ll need to maximise our time to have a chance of bowling South Africa out.” Clarke and Cowan’s 259-run partnership turned the match on its head. Between them, the pair smacked 38 boundaries and ran over the top of a South African attack featuring some of the world’s premier fast bowlers.
At first it seemed like the under-pressure Cowan had the headlines wrapped up all to himself with his maiden Test century — until his skipper upstaged him. Overlooked for a Cricket Australia contract this season, the Tasmanian sent selectors wary of his unconvincing form a stern, direct message. “It wasn’t really a contract issue to be honest, that wasn’t what was getting me going,” Cowan said.
“It’s more that I want to be playing cricket for a long time for Australia. “There’s only one way to do that and only one currency, and that’s scoring runs.”
But Cowan had another source of motivation — it was 12 months to the day since revered commentator and cricket writer Peter Roebuck was found dead at a South Africa hotel.
According to Cowan, Roebuck was “a coach and a mentor and someone who’s advice I valued very dearly”. “It was probably why I looked skywards upon getting 100,” he said. “I’m well aware of the date. I had a conversation with my wife this morning on an earlier-than-normal walk, because I couldn’t really sleep. “It was this day last year as well that started last season for me, having found out the news that he’d died. I was battling away a little bit and that kick-started me.”