South Africa 178-2 at close on 4th day

Graeme Smith hit a sprightly half-century as South Africa reached 178 for two after the fourth day of the first test against Australia on Sunday.

updated: March 02, 2009 17:23 IST
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Australia made some inroads into the South African batting lineup in the first Test on Sunday, but the Proteas will enter the final day of the match requiring 276 runs to win with eight wickets in hand.

But having chased down 414 to win against Australia in Perth in December, South Africa has reason to be confident.

"We can certainly draw on the experience of Perth. The pitch here isn't as flat as the one at Perth and the target is a bit larger but the guys have felt a lot more comfortable batting in the second innings than they did earlier in the match," said South African spinner Paul Harris.

"Once you have got in, it is possible to get a big score but the secret is to get started because wickets have tended to fall in clumps."

Three years ago Australia set South Africa a victory target of 434 in a one-day game at the Wanderers and lost, but it remains to be seen if Graeme Smiths team can conjure up a performance to match that on Monday.

Australia disposed of South Africa's openers Graeme Smith and Neil McKenzie, but all four top-order batsmen for the hosts made reasonable contributions to guide their side to 178-2 at the close in pursuit of a victory target of 454.

The record for a successful fourth innings Test run-chase is 418.

Both teams have a realistic chance of winning the opening Test, with the match delicately poised.

South African captain Graeme Smith scored a gritty 69 that included seven fours in his three hours at the crease, adding 76 for the first wicket with Neil McKenzie (35) and 54 with Hashim Amla (43 not out) for the second. Amla faced 88 balls and hit six fours.

Batting conditions were good, as afternoon sunshine dried out the pitch and removed some of its life.

Amla was tested by Australia's Peter Siddle, who subjected him to a barrage of short-pitched bowling from around the wicket. But South Africa's No.3 survived, and added 58 to the close with Jacques Kallis (26 not out), in 14.5 overs.

Australia, 246 runs ahead from the first innings, were dismissed for 207 shortly after lunch Sunday in their second innings.

Swing bowler Kallis led a spirited fightback in the first session of the day as Australia lost eight wickets for 123 runs.

Kallis dismissed Ricky Ponting (25) and Michael Hussey (0) off successive balls in the 10th full over of the day. Ponting pulled the big South African all-rounder to deep square-leg, and Husseys attempted pull shot was top-edged towards the square-leg umpire, where Makhaya Ntini held the catch. Three wickets fell with the score on 99, in the space of four balls. Two deliveries after Hussey was out, Michael Clarke (0) was brilliantly held by Kallis at slip to give spinner Paul Harris his first wicket of the innings.

In Kallis' next over, he bowled first innings century-maker Marcus North for five, and four Australians had fallen in 13 balls.

The next batsman to go was opener Phillip Hughes. It took a special catch from AB de Villiers at leg-slip to complete the dismissal. He dived to his left and grabbed an inside edge from Hughes one-handed.

Hughes was fortunate to survive that long because he appeared to get a faint touch on two occasions to balls down leg-side, but was not given out. The Proteas did not refer either decision but replays showed Hughes was probably out.

The referral system worked for Australia in another instance. Brad Haddin was given out lbw to Harris on 15, with the ball looking likely to shave off-stump, but third umpire Asad Rauf ruled not out.

Haddin was eventually caught behind for 37, off Makhaya Ntini, who finished the session with 3-29. Kallis had started the disintegration and had 3-22 at lunch, with Harris having claimed 2-36.