Proteas right back in it

2009-03-02 00:00

The exhilarating world championship Test series opener between Australia and host South Africa is set for a tense finish today at the Bullring.

Yesterday started with Ricky Ponting's side well on top, but that all evaporated in just one session, as a Jacques Kallis-inspired Protea side fought themselves right back into the thriller.

The all-rounder, who has endured a rather lean run with the bat by his lofty standards, produced a significant morning spell that yielded three key wickets and he also snared two fine catches as the match took yet another twist.

Kallis was rather fortunate to have Ponting caught on the deep square-leg boundary, as the Aussie skipper looped a rather innocuous half-tracker straight to Hashim Amla. Michael Hussey played an equally reckless pull shot off the next ball and Makhaya Ntini held the skied chance.

Kallis then pulled off an amazing, one-handed slip catch to get rid of Michael Clarke, as Paul Harris produced a gem that spun and turned. From 99 for one, the tourists were suddenly wobbling at 99 for four.

Harris then had opener Philip Hughes, who made a very adventurous 75, quite brilliantly caught by AB de Villiers at leg slip.

Brad Haddin rallied with a gutsy 37, but Australia were rolled over for 207 and suddenly South Africa were back in the game. Ntini and Kallis took three wickets, but one can be sure that the entire team was subjected to another of Graeme Smith's now famous dressing-room speeches.

The home side that turned up at the Wanderers yesterday was far removed from the one that rather laboured through the first three days.

Chasing 454, the SA openers started nervously, with Smith almost out in the first over from Mitchell Johnson.

Once Smith and Neil Mckenzie settled though, they added 76 largely untroubled runs before the latter nicked off in Johnson's return spell.

Amla started nervously, but unfurled some excellent drives as South Africa passed the hundred mark.

Smith, so often the rock that a South African fairytale has been built on, looked set to produce another gem as he strode purposefully to 69 off 109 balls. Inexplicably, he then tried to force a pull off Ben Hilfenhaus, but only succeeded in looping a sitter of a catch to mid-on.

The siginificance of that moment was evident in the manner that the Australians celebrated. Simply put, Smith represents a colossal beacon of hope for his team while at the crease. Seeing the back of him thus galvanizes the opposition, and the Aussies will go in today feeling much better for his absence.

Kallis finished off his excellent day by compiling a composed and unbeaten 26. Amla finished with a flurry to end the day on 43 not out.

Needing a further 276 to win, on a pitch that is starting to misbehave, the Proteas will have to play well to win. But they, and indeed Australia, will know that they have been there and made it to the other side.

Scoreboard:

Australia first innings 466 all out

South Africa first innings 220 all out

Australia second innings (o/n 51/1)

P Hughes c De Villiers b Harris 75

S Katich c Boucher b Morkel 10

R Ponting c Amla b Kallis 25

M Hussey c Ntini b Kallis 0

M Clarke c Kallis b Harris 0

M North b Kallis 5

B Haddin c Kallis b Boucher 37

A McDonald c Boucher b Ntini 7

M Johnson c Kallis b Ntini 1

P Siddle not out 22

B Hilfenhaus b Steyn 16

Extras 9

Total (all out) 207

Fall of wickets: 1-38 (Katich 11.3), 2-99 (Ponting 26.5), 3-99 (Hussey 26.6), 4-99 (Clarke 27.2), 5-104 (North 28.5), 6-138 (Hughes 35.3), 7-145 (McDonald 38.1), 8-147 (Johnson 40.4), 9-174 (Haddin 48.2)

Bowling: Steyn 16.4-5-51-1, Ntini 11-3-52-3, Morkel 10-1-41-1(3nb,!w), Harris 11-0-36-2, Kallis 5-0-22-3

South Africa second innings

N McKenzie c Haddin b Johnson 35

G Smith c Johnson b Hilfenhaus 69

H Amla not out 43

J Kallis not out 26

Extras 5

Total 178

Fall of wickets: 1-76 (McKenzie 27.3), 2-130 (Smith 41.1)

Bowling: Johnson 13-0-59-1, Hilfenhaus 16-4-47-1 (2nb), Siddle 12-2-32-0 (1nb, 1w) McDonald 9-3-16-0, North 5-0-23-0 - Sapa.

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