HIS batting was supreme, and there was a slight wobble in the South African camp, but the timing of Michael Clarke's declaration was questioned as the first Test ambled to a draw.
Darren Lehmann, who rates Clarke so highly that he once offered to give up his place in the Test team to him, said the Australian captain could have loosened South Africa's grip on the No. 1 ranking by declaring behind on Monday to push for a result.
Clarke declared Australia's innings closed at 5-565, one hour and 20 minutes into day five, with a lead of 115. The captain's unbeaten 259 gave Australia a faint chance of conjuring a win, but with a full day lost to rain, the Proteas batsmen did enough to stave off defeat at the Gabba.
The Test was called off with South Africa five wickets down, and 51 runs ahead, in the final hour. Australia will carry momentum to the second Test in Adelaide after hauling its way back into the match after conceding 2-255 on the opening day and finishing with an aggressive bowling performance.
Australia needs to win the series to wrest the No. 1 ranking away from South Africa. ''The team showed a lot of character after day one,'' Clarke said. ''I wish we had a bit of play on that washout day, but I think the boys deserve a lot of credit for their attitude.''
He admitted he thought about declaring behind but was discouraged by the pitch.
''I thought it was going to be tough if we had to chase 250, 280 on that wicket on the last day,'' he said. ''I thought our best chance of winning, especially with the way Michael Hussey was playing, was scoring quite quickly last night, get a lead, and come out this morning and be as positive as we could, then give ourselves as much time [as possible] in the game to try and take nine wickets.
''Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time, but full credit to the bowlers. It is positive that we were able to get the South African top order out again. Unfortunately, we didn't get a win, but we can certainly use the momentum we take from this game to Adelaide.''
Clarke defined himself as a daring captain when he declared behind the West Indies earlier this year to conjure a win in Barbados, and Lehmann, the Queensland coach, was surprised he didn't take the riskier of the two options this time.
''I reckon we probably should have declared just behind and make them set us a target,'' Lehmann said on SEN.
''We get two bites of the cherry; we can bowl them out cheaply, then and if we have to chase whatever we need, or they get a lead and think they can bowl us out, which I don't think they can, and we get a chance to chase down the runs. I would've liked to declare 100 behind and throw the ball back in their court a little bit. They're the No. 1 side, so let's see how they play when someone plays attacking cricket. No one likes draws.''
Clarke's superb innings was his third double century in 2012 and a world record at the Gabba, surpassing Englishman Alastair Cook's 235 not out two summers ago. He also shared a 228-run stand with Hussey, whose 100 came in just 127 balls.
Clarke later grabbed a one-handed catch at slip to dislodge Jacques Kallis off the bowling of Nathan Lyon, who picked up two wickets after his first two overs were plundered for 26. Soon afterwards, the introduction of Rob Quiney's part-time mediums to the attack signalled a draw was imminent.