FAST bowler Stuart Clark has skittled suggestions the world No.2-ranked South Africans represent the greatest threat to Australia’s impressive home record.
The last time Australia lost a series here was in 1992-93 when the West Indies triumphed 2-1. However, with no Glenn McGrath or Shane Warne in Ricky Ponting’s attack, there is a popular view South Africa mightn’t succumb to the same pressures that have sunk them on previous tours.
Clark, who is zeroing on 100 Test wickets, confessed last year’s siege of a series against India was the toughest time he’d endured since making his Test debut in 2006.
"They’re a strong team, but they’re not unbeatable," he told The Sun-Herald , speaking of the Proteas. "There are quite a few familiar faces [in the squad]; ones we’ve beaten and played against. Some of them have a lot more confidence than the last time we met because they’ve had a little bit of success.
"But I think India last summer was a tough series. It was the toughest I’ve played here. South Africa are No.2 in the world so they’ve obviously done very well. On the previous occasions they’ve been here they haven’t been so successful … but they’ll be tough if they can play as well as India did."
Clark, whose wife, Michelle, gave birth to the couple’s second child, a girl named Sophie, on Wednesday, starts the Test series on Wednesday 10 victims shy of the 100 wickets milestone. While McGrath sweated on his personal wicket tally, Clark shrugged his shoulders when asked about the impending achievement.
"I don’t really think much of it," he said. "There’s been talk of the 100 wickets but at the end of the day it is just a number to me. It’s a personal achievement and it’s not something that’ll affect the team in terms of winning."
Since taking match figures of 9-89 on debut against South Africa, Clark has established himself as a vital member of the Australian attack. After taking 20 South Africa wickets at an average of 15.85 during his debut Test series, he has maintained his consistency and his 90 wickets have come at a skinny average of 22.97, putting him on par with McGrath (21.64).
Yet, the 33-year-old was reluctant to celebrate the type of statistic that sends cricket tragics into a headspin.
"It’s something I don’t think much about," said Clark who has been studying his Masters of Commerce degree at Sydney University. "It’s something I don’t talk about … but I’m as surprised [by it] as anyone."
While Clark might have dismissed any suggestions South Africa were the most serious threat to Australia’s home record, he didn’t follow McGrath’s psychological ploy of predicting a series whitewash. Though, he didn’t need to; the old master was up to his tricks at the SCG during a promotion for the McGrath Foundation.
"South Africa has some quality batsmen and bowlers but I still back our boys," McGrath said before predicting a 3-0 shellacking.
Cricket Australia announced during the week that the third day of the Sydney Test, traditionally known as Ladies Day, will now be called Jane McGrath Day in honour of his late wife who lost her battle with breast cancer earlier this year.