South Africa batted through the majority of the final day of the First Test to ensure a comfortable draw against Australia at the Gabba in Brisbane on Tuesday reaching 166-5, a lead of 51, when rival captains Graeme Smith and Michael Clarke agreed to shake hands with 11 overs remaining.
Clarke’s brilliant innings continued at the start of the fifth day when he moved from 218 to 259 not out in the company of Mike Hussey who reached his 17th Test century before immediately holing out to substitute fielder Faf du Plessis at cover off the bowling of Morne Morkel.
It was the only wicket to fall before Clarke’s declaration just 80 minutes into the day’s play at 565-5, a lead of 115. The Australian captain faced 398 deliveries striking 26 fours. Morkel beat the bats of Clarke and Hussey on numerous occasions without luck but still finished as the most successful of the Proteas attack with figures of 31-6-127-3.
Australia’s chances of putting South Africa under pressure depended on taking quick wickets to justify Clarke’s early declaration and the first one duly arrived in just the second over when Alviro Petersen edged a James Pattinson away swinger to ‘keeper Matt Wade.
Hashim Amla would have become a second victim on the stroke of lunch when he squeezed a Pattinson yorker on to his stumps but umpire Asad Rauf asked for third umpire assistance in adjudicating a no ball – and Amla was reprieved on seven.
Smith’s resistance ended with a thick edge to gully on 23 and the Australian pace attack, sensing the possibility of a famous win, threw everything at Jacques Kallis and Amla in a fearsome 40-minute spell during which both batsmen required their full range of skills – and cool heads – to survive.
Amla (38) eventually drove a full delivery from Peter Siddle to cover while Kallis (49) edged a ‘slider’ from off-spinner Nathan Lyon to slip where Clarke took a reflex, one-handed catch low to his right.
By the time Jacques Rudolph (11) was trapped lbw by Lyon the match was virtually over thanks to an obdurate, unbeaten 29 from 114 balls by AB de Villiers.
The Proteas now have a three-day break before re-grouping on Sunday to prepare for the second Test starting at the Adelaide Oval next Thursday.