The total is not as imposing as Australia would have liked, but at least gives their bowlers something to defend.

Clarke, speaking after posting his century on day one, said he doesn’t believe the Australian captaincy has improved his batting. The 30-year-old has made it clear that one of his key focuses as skipper is to ensure he doesn’t let his batting slip.

But after a lean patch where he hadn’t brought up three figures since March 2010, Clarke responded with a second-innings 112 in the third Test against Sri Lanka, and now a defiant example of his maturity and class against the Proteas at Newlands.

It would appear the captaincy has sharpened him at the crease. But Clarke said the turnaround has more to do with simply realising he must justify his place in the team as a batsman.

“I probably couldn’t go any worse than I have over the past 12 months, so I don’t know if the captaincy has made any difference at all,” said Clarke, who also dismissed the theory that moving from second drop to No.5 had helped his form.

“I just think the fact that I didn’t score anywhere near as many runs as I would have liked in the past 12 months – to stay in the team, I had to make runs.

“Fortunately, I’ve done that over the past two Tests. It’s always nice to make a couple of hundreds.

“It’s no different batting being captain to when I was vice-captain. The facts are you’ve got to score runs to stay in this team.”

Clarke’s signature innings in Cape Town was highlighted by his absorbing battle with South African spearhead Dale Steyne. The NSW star survived the early onslaught before powering on to also eclipse the 5000-run milestone, becoming the 18th Australian to do so. It was a captain’s performance of the highest order, but Clarke refused to be drawn on whether it was his best innings since 151 on debut against India in 2004.

“I don’t really know because I haven’t had a chance to look at it,” he said.

“All I can picture is I started horribly, I felt like I couldn’t get my head out of the way and Steyn kept getting it closer and closer to my head.

“I remember from years ago, Warnie saying to me the better the bowling the more positive you have to be, and that was my attitude.

“Every hundred you make for Australia is special so I don’t want to say it’s my best hundred, because I don’t really know that answer.

“That’s probably up for other people to make that call, but it’s great to be able to score runs when the team’s under pressure as the captain. I’m really happy with that.”