Australia skipper Clarke cautious over prospect of series triumph against Proteas

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 February, 2014, 12:51am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 February, 2014, 12:51am


Michael Clarke was tempted by the question. Australia have the chance to mark their first test in Port Elizabeth since 1997 with an era-changing cricket series victory over top-ranked South Africa, something that would underline his team's revival.

Had that been in the Aussie skipper's mind at all in the build-up to the second test at St George's Park?

"Not yet," Clarke said on Wednesday, the day before the test. But the seed had been planted. "It's very exciting, there's no doubt," he added. Then catching himself again, Clarke returned to reality. You can't think about winning the series just one test in. And anyway, Australia always took it match by match.

If you're not concentrating on the job at hand, you'll find yourself behind and we can't afford that
Australia captain Michael Clarke

"Against such a good team, if you're not concentrating on the job at hand, you'll find yourself behind in the game and we can't afford that," Clarke said, reluctant to talk up a possible first series win by anyone over South Africa in five years. "I said the same in Australia in the summer. People ask me did you ever imagine you were going to win [the Ashes] 5-0 and you never think about that. We're so focused on each test match."

The bigger picture is pretty clear, though. Probably to Clarke as much as anyone else.

Off the back of a 281-run mauling of the hosts at Centurion, where the South Africans are normally near-invincible and had won five of their six previous tests by an innings, Australia are in strong contention to end the Proteas' unbeaten run.

In Mitchell Johnson, the tourists have the most feared fast bowler in the world and his career-best 12-127 in the first test shook the South Africans to their core no matter what their own positive spin on it is.

Australia won their last test at the seaside venue 17 years ago when Ian Healy hit a six to wrap up a come-from-behind win after conceding a first-innings deficit of 101. That game has gone down in Australian legend.