Australia's James Pattinson (R) tries to run out South
African batsman Hashim Amla on day three of the first test
at the Gabba in Brisbane. REUTERS/Aman Sharma
Ed Cowan scored his first test century and Michael Clarke
his 20th in a fourth-wicket partnership of 259 to steer
Australia to safety at 306 for four at tea on the fourth day of
the first test.
Cowan departed for 136 in heartbreaking fashion just before
the break, run out at the non-striker's end when Dale Steyn
got a finger to a Clarke drive and the opener was caught out
of his crease backing up.
Australia had resumed on 111-3, 339 behind South Africa's
first innings tally of 450, with the tourists keen to get a
couple of early wickets to try and force a result in a test
which lost an entire day to rain on Friday.
Cowan and his captain Clarke, who was 126 not out at tea,
batted with great maturity to dig their country out of a
hole, even if the much vaunted South African bowlers failed
to get much out of a flat track.
Their partnership was an Australian record for the fourth
wicket at the Gabba, beating the 245 Clarke and Mike Hussey
made against Sri Lanka in 2007.
Hussey, who had scored one after replacing Cowan at the
crease, was set to reprise the partnership with Clarke after
Left-hander Cowan had brought up his fourth test half century
with a single to square leg off the third ball of the day and
survived a nervous couple of overs in the 90s to go into
lunch two runs short of his hundred.
In the second over after resumption, however, the 30-year-old
pulled a short Vernon Philander delivery for four to the
square leg boundary, beginning his joyous celebrations before
the ball hit the rope.
The hundred came from 185 deliveries with 14 fours and was a
retort to those critics who have consistently questioned his
place in the team since he made his debut in last year's
Melbourne test against India.
Clarke, who came to the crease on Sunday with Australia
reeling at 40-3, had the first of a string of uncomfortable
moments immediately after reaching his 23rd test 50.
Miscuing a pull shot off debutant Rory Kleinveldt, he was
mighty relieved when the consequent edge looped over the head
of fielder Philander.
Clarke's negotiation of the "nervous nineties" was even more
fraught than Cowan's and he was nearly run out going for a
second run that would have brought him to the hundred mark.
He survived the scare, however, and a single behind point
soon afterwards saw him whip off his helmet to kiss the badge
in celebration of a fine innings.
The hundred came in 210 balls with 12 fours and was the
31-year-old's sixth since he took over from Ricky Ponting as
test captain after last year's World Cup.
Cowan, meanwhile, had survived a run out scare of his own
when he was on 106 before South Africa spurned an even better
chance to send him packing when he was on 123.
The Australian skied a hook shot towards long leg and Dale
Steyn called for it but was distracted by the approaching
Jacques Rudolph and dropped the ball, again depriving
Kleinveldt of his maiden test wicket.
South Africa's number one test ranking is on the line in the
series, which continues with matches in Adelaide and Perth