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Monday, December 29, 2008

South Africa on course for match and series win despite lone hand from Ponting : Second Test Day 4

South Africa 459 and 0/30 need a further 153 runs to defeat Australia 394 and 247 (R Ponting 99, D Steyn 5/67): Second Test Day 4 at Melbourne Cricket Ground.

At the start of today's play Mark Nicholas, introducing proceedings on Channel 9, got the series sponsor's name wrong (it's not nPower). He corrected himself quickly, which was more than the Australian team, apart from the captain and a couple of others, was able to do.

The movement of the match out of Australia's reach continued in the first hour when the score went from 0/4 via 0/37 to 3/49. Matthew Hayden seemed to be finding some touch when he drove Dale Steyn to short extra cover for a not entirely convincing 23; Simon Katich played himself in then snicked a wide one to the keeper; Mike Hussey was given out caught when the ball touched his helmet (and nothing else).

Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke steadied things, not without some awkward moments until, and then beyond, lunch. But Clarke, in contrast to the first innings, surrendered his wicket cheaply to a poor ball from Steyn. Andrew Symonds, Brad Haddin and Brett Lee all failed (the last two after showing some brief promise) making Australia 7/180.

Mitchell Johnson dug in and supported the captain who, conscious of his team's predicament, became more introspective as he moved towards his second century of the match. He was caught at short extra cover for 99/169b (7x4). While this was not a flawless innings, Ponting had worked hard enough to earn his second century of the match, but it wasn;t to be.

The last two wickets, thanks to Johnson's 43 no/ 85b (5x4) added 35, leaving South Africa to amke 183 to win.

Brett Lee, determined as ever, opened the bowling, and bowled Neil McKenzie off a no ball. At the other end Graeme Smith was in ominously good touch, scoring 25 of his team's 0/30 at stumps.

Rain is forecast for Melbourne tomorrow. If it prevents a South African victory that will be a greater injustice than Ponting's dismissal for 99, unless, and this is a very big unless, Australia can rise like a phoenix from the ashes of their burnt expectations. Not likely I think, notwithstanding the other reversals of fortune in this series so far.


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