Brisbane: Captain Michael Clarke said positive batting had been the key to his unbeaten double century and Australia's remarkable turnaround of fortunes in the first Test against South Africa on Monday. Clarke came to the wicket with his side under the cosh at 40 for three in reply to South Africa's 450 on Sunday afternoon and more than eight hours of batting later, was targeting what would be a stunning victory with his team on 487 for 4.
The 31-year-old carried his bat to the pavilion with 218 runs on the board having shared a record partnership of 259 with Ed Cowan, who scored his maiden test century in an innings of 136, and another stand of 188 with Mike Hussey (86 not out).
Much of the talk before the series had been about the South African pace attack of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel and it was from an Australian bowling great of the past, Shane Warne, that Clarke drew his inspiration to neuter them. "One of things Warney's taught me over the years is the better the bowling, the more positive you've got to be and that was certainly my intent from the first ball I faced yesterday," Clarke told reporters.
"I wanted to be nice and positive and play my way, and put it back on the South African bowlers because I know they're a very good attack. I think Ed and I just tried to play our natural games. We had a bit of luck along the way and Michael Hussey showed great intent, scored very freely and continued to show his class.
"When you're under pressure, that's when I generally play my best cricket."
Clarke's form since he took over as captain from Ricky Ponting last year has been little short of brilliant with a batting average of over 60 in that period and six test centuries under his belt.
Monday's effort was his third double century of the year - taking in his sublime unbeaten 329 against India at Sydney in January - and he has now scored 1,000 test runs in 2012.
"I'm trying to get better every day," Clarke added. "It's been nice to lead the way with the bat. I've said for a while now, it's not what you say, it's what you do. "Ricky certainly did that as captain of Australia for a long period of time. He was scoring lots of runs and the boys followed. Hopefully I've got a few left in me."
Clarke's reputation has undergone a transformation in the last 20 months almost as remarkable as his team's chances in the Gabba test.
Dismissed as a slick dilettante by some of his compatriots, Clarke was booed onto the pitch at a couple of grounds after the Ashes humiliation that preceded his elevation to captain.
The criticism has largely been washed away in a torrent of runs and Clarke would surely claim a few more converts if he could somehow fashion a win over the number one ranked side in test cricket on Tuesday.
"I definitely think we can have a crack at winning," he said. "The key is tomorrow morning, to be nice and positive and see how we go leading up to lunch, and then give ourselves a couple of sessions to be able to bowl South Africa out.
"Hopefully the sun is out and the wicket deteriorates a little bit more as well. It's worth a go, in my opinion. We want to try and win, we're in a pretty good position now."