Australia in SA
Clarke hails Aussie veterans
Michael Clarke (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Australian captain Michael Clarke praised the courage and character of some of his under-pressure senior players after they chased down a target of 310 to share their two-match Test series with South Africa here on Monday.
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Teenage fast bowler Pat Cummins sealed a dream Test debut when he hit the winning runs to take Australia to a two-wicket win in the second Test at the Wanderers Stadium.
The 18-year-old was named man-of-the-match after taking six for 79 in the second innings but Clarke had special praise for Ricky Ponting, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson, whose futures in the Australian Test team had been questioned.
All three shone in what was a record run chase at the Wanderers.
"The guys who who have been under pressure showed courage and their true character," said Clarke.
"That is what I am most proud of in this Australian team. After a horrible batting performance in (the first Test in) Cape Town we managed a record run chase today in tough conditions.
"Ricky Ponting, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson stood up and they deserve a lot of credit for that."
Ponting made 62, while Haddin (55) and Johnson (40 not out) shared a crucial seventh wicket stand of 72 off only 80 balls.
They were particularly aggressive immediately after tea when they scored 54 in the seven overs that remained before the second new ball was taken, by which time only 34 more runs were needed.
"There was a bit of an in-house discussion about what we should say to them during the tea break," said Clarke.
"I made it clear, let’s not waste our breath. They’re going to play their way and they both played with really positive intent. Nothing was said except to wish them well and for them to continue to back themselves and play their way."
Clarke said he didn’t believe the trio had anything to prove.
"They don’t need to prove anything to anyone in that changing room."
On the other side of the coin, he acknowledged the role played by Cummins, who bowled with pace and skill.
"He’s an amazing talent, no doubt. It’s not just his bowling. I’ve made it clear to him that I think he’s a very good batsman and he needs to work hard at that, and he’s an athlete in the field as good as they come," said Clarke.
"We’ve got to be smart now. I don’t think it’s possible for Paddy to play in all three forms of the game and play every single game.
"We need to make a plan for him. He’s got the potential to be an amazing cricketer for Australia and we’ve got to look after him."
South African captain Graeme Smith admitted that the top order batsmen had let good positions slip in both innings.
"That’s a fair assessment. It’s difficult to win a Test when you collapse, losing six wickets for a hundred runs.
"I still believe setting 310 was a good total. We had our opportunities to take the game away from Australia but credit to them, they kept coming.
"They bowled well. I thought Cummins in particular got a lot out of the surface."
Smith said it was disappointing that the series consisted of only two Tests.
"When you have top teams playing it’s exciting. It’s always competitive and it’s good Test cricket."
Smith said it was difficult to pinpoint a major turning point in a match in which fortunes swung dramatically but he said losing four wickets on the fourth morning had undone the work done by Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers in a century partnership for the fourth wicket.
"We had set up the game quite well and we just needed to form one or two partnerships. Losing four wickets set us back," said Smith.
"That was the time we really needed to put the knife in."
South African opening bowler Vernon Philander, who had five-wicket hauls in both his first two Test appearances, was named man-of-the series.