Michael Clarke
Michael Clarke

Australia and South Africa appear destined for a draw in the first Test at the Gabba after the home side closed play on day four at 4-487, driven by an outstanding double century from captain Michael Clarke.

At stumps, the skipper was unbeaten on 218 alongside veteran Mike Hussey (86 not out), and both look simply unmovable.

Together with Ed Cowan (136), they have helped Australia surpass South Africa's monster first-innings total of 450 and hold a lead of 37 runs - a feat that seemed beyond any realm of possibility on Sunday.

But Clarke's mesmerising double ton, which he delivered with a classy drive straight down the ground, erased the memory of a disastrous day three.

Smacking 21 fours, he became only the third batsman in Test history to score three double centuries in the one calendar year and also reached 1000 runs for 2012.

With one day left to play and a genuine flat track at the Gabba, it is almost certain the match will end without a result - unless Australia declare early in the morning and manage to blitz the South African top order.

That puts into context how important Cowan and Clarke's 259-run stand was, given they began their partnership with Australia hurtling towards ignominious defeat at 3-40.

After that point, Australia lost just one man for 447 runs.

Australia saw off the second new ball with ease, even though it incidentally claimed Cowan though a run out.

The Tasmanian's best ever Test innings ended just before tea when he was punished for backing up too far out of his crease - but Hussey slotted into his shoes seamlessly, hitting the boundary 12 times.

Clarke was at his commanding and relentless best, putting on a clinic in the face of the world's greatest fast bowling attack, which failed to take a wicket on the day aside from Cowan's.

The pitch and conditions at the Brisbane ground have offered bowlers little movement, allowing four batsmen to register triple-figure scores in the match - the first time this has happened in a Test between these two nations.

Hashim Amla (104) and Jacques Kallis (147) set South Africa up for a big win on days one and three as the tourists romped to a first innings total of 450.

But Cowan and Clarke's fightback rescued Australia after the cheap losses of David Warner (four), Rob Quiney (nine) and Ricky Ponting (zero).

Morne Morkel (2-109) is the pick of the Proteas bowlers, with Dale Steyn (1-109) scooping the other wicket.

South Africa clearly missed the presence of spinner Imran Tahir, who was left out of the side for rookie paceman Rory Kleinveldt (0-81).

Their four-pronged pace attack fell flat and not even the bowling of Jacques Kallis (0-30) or the introduction of part-time spinners Graeme Smith (0-36), Amla (0-9) and Alviro Petersen (0-20) could turn things around.


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