Australia’s series-winning 112-run
rout of South Africa overnight was notable for a lot of spectacular
performances: Brett Lee’s devastation of the Proteas’ tail in the first
innings, Shane Warne’s six wickets to bring it home in the second, and
of course Ricky Ponting’s inexorable rise to greatness and beyond.

Alongside
the big names and the stellar milestones, however, the mostly unsung
Stuart Clark is rapidly adding lines to his resume. His 2 for 46 from
21 overs last night is not the kind of spell that wins headlines, but
it’s the kind of line-and-length pressure-cooker bowling in which Glenn
McGrath specialises, and which Australia has lacked in Pigeon’s absence.

Clark
clearly knows not only the difference between all-out aggression and
discipline, but when to turn it on, which he did last night by piercing
a hole in the surface of a lifeless pitch after a session of
frustratingly even bounce, then using it to target Herscelle Gibbs’
gloves. Gibbs dutifully punched one to slip, job done. Clark then
applied the screws, giving away only two runs an over, helping Warne to
tear it up at the other end.

With one more Test to play in South
Africa beginning this Friday, two in Bangladesh in April, then six
months of one-day cricket right up to the first ball of the Ashes in
November, Clark isn’t going to get many more chances to shake his
money-maker in the long game, but it’s unlikely he’ll need to.

Having
shaken out the rain of pace bowlers tested in either form of the game
since the Ashes (Dorey, Johnson, Lewis and Bracken), the Australian
attack is looking much more settled. Michael Kasprowicz is
underperforming in this series and it appeared last night that his
Ashes no-ball yips have returned (6 of the 51 runs from his bowling
were scored by his own front foot).

An Ashes bowling line-up of
McGrath, Lee, Clark, Warne and MacGill, with understudies like Bracken,
Hogg and Cullen, is starting to look pretty formidable. 139 sleeps to
go.

Peter Fray

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