Michael Clarke puts Aussies in driver’s seat

Australia’s Michael Clarke plays a shot against South Africa during the first cricket Test match in...

Australia’s Michael Clarke plays a shot against South Africa during the first cricket Test match in Brisbane Monday. (AMAN SHARMA/Reuters)

NORMAN DA COSTA, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:57 PM ET

Michael Clarke flogged the finest fast-bowling brigade in the world and ignited a faint hope that Australia can pull off a victory that 24 hours previously seemed impossible after one day was lost to rain. The Australian captain scored a scintillating 218 not out against South Africa on the fourth day of the first Test at Brisbane on Monday as the Aussies compiled a massive 487 for four in reply to South Africa’s 450.

Buoyed by Clarke’s double century, a ‘ton’ from Ed Cowan and a quick 87 from Michael Hussey, the Aussies made a mockery of South Africa’s vaunted attack of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Phil Philander. Australia takes a lead of 37 into the final day and will hope for quick runs for a lead of around 200 before putting the Proteas in.

Earlier, the tourists made 450 in the first innings, thanks to centuries from the ever-dependable Hashim Amla and veteran Jacques Kallis. On Monday Clarke joined the late Don Bradman and his teammate Ricky Ponting as the only players to score 200 on three occasions in the same year.

REWRITE THIS RULE

Here is one rule that the ICC should think about rewriting. South African all-rounder JP Duminy was ruled out of the first Test through injury an hour before the game had even started. But since his name was already pencilled in South Africa was forced to play with 10 men. Duminy ruptured his Achilles tendon while warming up playing rugby with his teammates and this sidelines him for six months.

For some reason cricketers resort to soccer, volleyball and frisbee but hardly ever do any cricket-related drills prior to the start of a match. JP now joins four other players who were ruled out after goofing around. But by far the most comical one involved the very experienced Pakistanis Younis Khan and Inzamam-ul-Haq in a game where one has to tag the person holding a soccer ball. The two had to be separated after getting into a scuffle prior to a World Cup match in 2003.

SPIN-VERSUS-PACE SERIES

It is hard to believe that England hasn’t won a Test series in India since the 1984-85 tour. Alastair Cook’s team will now be hoping to end the 27-year wait when the series starts in Ahmedabad on Thursday. As expected it will be a gripping contest between Indian spinners and England’s pace attack. The Indian squad is all fit with the exception of fragile fast bowler Zaheer Khan, who has a nagging leg injury. Meanwhile, England’s star spinner, Graeme Swann, returned to Ahmedabad Monday morning after flying home for two days to be with his young daughter who was ill ... Ian Bell will fly home right after the conclusion of the first Test to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Bell is expected to return for the second Test in Mumbai Nov. 23.

WORLD CUP SEMI FIXED?

Here we go again. A British journalist has revealed in his yet-to-be-launched book that the 2010 World Cup semifinal between eventual champion India and Pakistan was fixed. In the book A Journey to the Corrupt Heart of Cricket’s Underworld, Ed Hawkins details how the pattern of play would unfold after he received messages from an Indian bookmaker. The Indian board is livid over the claims and said it was an insult to an Indian team that had worked so hard for victory.

A Pakistani board member added he wasn’t surprised by the allegations as “it was being done to spoil the upcoming series.’’ The two warring nations resume bilateral ties after a break of five years with the first match scheduled on Christmas Day . . . . India’s Home Ministry has dashed the hopes of thousands of Pakistani fans who would have travelled to India to cheer their team on. The ministry has declared a fan would have to have an Indian sponsor to get a visa and that would be tough. This decision was taken after 12 Pakistani fans disappeared into thin air after travelling for the last series in 2007 ... It rained on New Zealand’s chance of pulling off at least one win over home town Sri Lanka in the five-ODI series. Sri Lanka struggled to 123 for eight on Monday before the skies opened up on Monday forcing the match to be abandoned. The teams now meet in a two-Test series.

COURT CLEARS AZHARUDDIN

An Indian court has ruled that the life ban placed on former Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin in 2000 was illegal. The batsman with that silky touch, who led India in Sahara Cup matches versus Pakistan in the 1990s in Toronto, was banned for his involvement in match-fixing. Azharuddin waged a 10-year court battle to have his name cleared until this ruling. “I am not going to take any legal action against any authority and I don’t want to blame anybody for this also,’’ said Azharuddin who is now a politician. “Finally the verdict has come and I am happy that the ban has been lifted by the court.’’

AFRIDI ‘FRUSTRATING’

Former England opening batsman Geoffrey Boycott, whose batting was about as exciting as watching paint dry, has taken a shot at Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi’s batting performance in recent months. “His batting is so bad now, it’s embarrassing,’’ the now respected columnist told Pakistani newspaper The Dawn. “It’s appalling to watch him bat. It must be frustrating as hell, exasperating, annoying, to all his supporters, his friends, his captain,’’ Boycott added. But Boycott believes Afridi still is indispensable as a bowler ... The Pakistan board has made a wise decision to stick with Misbah-ul-Haq and Mohammad Hafeez as their captains for their Test, ODI and T20 teams, respectively.


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