Demolition man puts Proteas to the sword

Clarke gives master classAll bad news for South AfricansPonting’s fall casts doubt of Ashes ambitions
Nanjing Night Net

BEFORE scaffolding, slabs of concrete and cranes, a masterly Michael Clarke has led an extraordinary demolition job for Australia to bludgeon the second Test — and the quest for the world No. 1 ranking – indisputably in the host’s favour.

Adelaide Oval is in a rebuilding phase, set to be unveiled next year as a 40,000-seat football stadium, but right now it looks as if a cyclone has gone through the place. Graeme Smith’s Proteas, in crisis, may have felt similarly after a first day that included another crushing double-century from Clarke – a record-breaking fourth for the calendar year — as well as hundreds to David Warner and Michael Hussey.

The result was carnage for the hapless visiting bowlers, the rewriting of history, and Australia, in the match and the series, overwhelmingly in the ascendancy.

If the setting wasn’t quite as pretty as usual, the exhibition of mercilessness was more than consolation, with an imperious Clarke (224 not out), an aggressive Warner (119) and dependable Hussey (103) pounding South Africa’s understrength and demoralised attack to all corners with utter contempt.

At their most frenetic, Clarke and Warner were travelling at upwards of 10 runs an over, taking advantage of bowling that ranged between average and abysmal, as well as the short boundary, to pile on the majority of the 178 runs scored between lunch and tea. Then, in the afternoon, Clarke continued by smacking poor Morne Morkel for five boundaries in the one over to race past 150, as he and Hussey combined for 202 in the final session.

Clarke, in the process, breezed past Donald Bradman and Ricky Ponting and into a club of his own before stumps, becoming the first batsman in Test history to strike four double-centuries in a year. Appropriately, even broadcaster Channel Nine’s 6pm news bulletin was held back as Clarke clocked up 200 and Hussey, with a six into the construction zone, finished off a second consecutive hundred of his own.

In all Australia, having won the toss and choosing to bat, blazed a single-day total of 5-482, the country’s most heady day in Tests since 1910 when Clem Hill’s side hit 494 in Sydney, also against South Africa.

The Proteas, meanwhile, may as well have not got out of bed.

Their woes began early, with Vernon Philander reporting lower back soreness after rising creakily from his mattress in the team’s city hotel on Thursday morning and withdrawing moments before play.

Before lunch they had lost Kallis who, having knocked over Ponting’s off-stump, was taken to hospital as well for scans after straining a hamstring. When pace leader Dale Steyn trudged off mid-over with hamstring tightness in the last session, having been utilised confusingly for most of the day, they were at rock-bottom.

He returned later to remove Hussey with the final ball of the day but as Clarke wound up the damage was already done, with journeyman leg-spinner Imran Tahir in particular treated ruthlessly, hammered for 0-159 from 21 overs.

The only unfortunate outcome of Clarke’s mightiness was that an outstanding century by Warner, the third of his young Test career, could be lost in the wash. Hussey is used to being the sideshow but Warner’s fast ton set the tone for Australia, thrashing 16 boundaries and four sixes to shut down any questions about his place in the team.

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