The shine of a famous Ashes victory is quickly wearing off on the Australian team after South Africa recorded a massive 231-run win in Port Elizabeth on Sunday. The pressure is mounting on Australian skipper Michael Clarke, who has not crossed 25 runs in his last 11 Test innings. Australia needed a huge slice of Clarke's batting resolve on a dramatic Day 4 at St George's Park, but there were no signs of any redemption as South Africa levelled the three-match series after losing the first Test by 281 runs at Centurion.
Clarke is surely under pressure. Since a century in the first innings of the second Ashes Test at Adelaide Oval in December last year, Clarke has struggled with form, scoring 19 and 1 in a Test match where South African quickies, especially Dale Steyn, tormented the entire Aussie top order with pace and movement. Clarke failed to prevent a batting slide as Australia lost nine wickets post tea. (Also read: Smith praises 'killer' Steyn)
"Obviously I'd like to score a hundred every time I bat. I'm not looking forward to the next however many press conferences until I make a score over 25 or 50 or a hundred," Clarke said. "I have been there before. The one thing I will say is that in this game of cricket you have some great times and I remember those fondly. There are some tough times and it makes you enjoy the good times. Right now you're right, it is 11 innings since I've scored more than 25. I'm due."
The third and final Test, the decider, will be played at Cape Town from Saturday and Clarke's form will be crucial. The Aussie skipper desperately wants to strike form. Interestingly, former Australian skipper Mark Taylor almost lost his job after going 21 Test innings without a fifty in 1996-97. "I've got room to play," he said. "Hopefully we're not having this discussion in the next press conference," Clarke told reporters on Sunday.
Clarke said Australia's inability to score runs on different surfaces was exposed. "I think the common denominator when you are not winning is when you aren't bowling teams out for a low enough score or you aren't making enough runs as a batting unit," he said. "We play in different conditions around the world, we didn't have as much success as we would have liked in India, the wickets were slow and low and spun then we went to the UK and we didn't have much success there.
"Through my career we have played on green seamers where we haven't scored enough. I don't think it is about conditions, you need to pay credit to some great bowling from South Africa, we didn't make enough runs or bowl anywhere as well as we needed to in either innings we need to find a way to turn that around over the next few days and prepare for another Test match, a tough Test match and make sure we are at our best as we were seven days ago."
Apart from the batting failures, Clarke said his bowlers had a lot to learn from Dale Steyn. "I think you have seen a class spell of reverse swing bowling from all three of the South African bowlers, certainly Dale Steyn. South Africa showed us how to get the ball reversing, we didn't get one to reverse in both innings so we can learn from that and as I said you saw a class bowler bowl consistently at 140 to 145kph and execute his skills as well as you will see in international cricket, so Dale Steyn deserves a lot of credit," said Clarke.