North shows SA the way

2009-02-28 00:00

AUSTRALIA chose the second day of the first Test to illustrate just how resolutely they will hold on to their number one spot in the rankings.

After piling up 466 all out in their innings yesterday, a fine opening burst from Mitchell Johnson and debutant Ben Hilfenhaus reduced South Africa to two for two. The hosts recovered somewhat, with Jacques Kallis going on to 10 000 Test runs as he and Neil Mckenzie added 47 for the third wicket.

The South Africans eventually rallied to 85 for three at the close of play.

Earlier, Marcus North continued his impressive debut by registering a composed century against a South African attack that seemed to lack its usual intensity.

Resuming on 254 for 5, North and Brad Haddin eventually added 113 before the Aussie wicket-keeper slapped a Makhaya Ntini half-tracker to Paul Harris at mid-on.

The visitors, though, were not nearly finished as Mitchell Johnson saw North through to his fine ton.

“It was a really a big thrill getting there, and after waiting for so long for my opportunity I was very hungry to succeed,” the Western Australian skipper reflected.

North fell soon after for 117, stumped off the largely ineffective Harris. Though he was largely economical, save for a brutal Johnson assault that harvested 26 off one over, Harris was the weak link in the SA attack. Indeed, JP Duminy’s part-time off-spin was more threatening, as he at least beat the bat with some turn.

Johnson, who surely has to be recognised as a genuine all-rounder now, reached his half-century with a slog sweep off Duminy before he really stepped on the gas.

The big hitter also revealed that he was thinking of Adam Gilchrist’s exploits as he pounded Harris all over the park.

“At one point I did recall what Gilly used to do, and it was just a really good feeling to do well for the team,” he said later.

The Aussie innings ended suddenly, however, as Morne Morkel, who beat the bat serially, took three wickets in as many balls. The first of those was a no-ball, however, which Siddle edged to Kallis at slip.

The next produced the same outcome, before Hilfenhaus nicked his only delivery to a relieved AB de Villiers at third slip to leave Johnson stranded on 96 not out off 131 balls, with 10 fours and five sixes.

The Proteas got off to the worst possible start as Graeme Smith edged his second ball from Johnson and was very well held by a diving Haddin.

An equally good catch by Ricky Ponting saw Hashim Amla fall to the impressive Hilfenhaus, as Australia used the conditions effectively.

It would be an understatement to suggest that this morning will be crucial to the outcome of this gripping Test, and South Africa will again have to fight hard to stay in this match.

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