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South africa on top as Clarke battles
by CricketArchive Staff Reporter


Event:South Africa in Australia 2008/09

DateLine: 3rd January 2009

 

Australia had won the toss and wanted first use of the good pitch as they entered the game with an unfamiliar line-up, with Brad Haddin listed at No. 6 ahead of the debutant allrounder Andrew McDonald. South Africa made no changes as they aimed for their third win of the series, which would hand them the No. 1 Test ranking. Australia's under-fire top order was again severely tested at the SCG, where South Africa's attack regularly chipped off at the Australian batting line-up refusing to let Australia build any momentum.

 

Simon Katich gave Australia a brisk start while Matthew Hayden was watchful against a pace attack that found some swing on the first morning. Hayden has been under serious pressure and he was happy leaving balls outside off and driving down the ground when the fast men overpitched. He survived a couple of nervous moments but was to determined to make this innings count. Simply making through until lunch was an achievement for Hayden, who until this match had been the first man out in every Australian Test innings at home this summer. It had been a confident 52-ball innings from Katich, who dominated the second 50-run opening partnership he and Hayden had achieved in Tests.

 

Katich showed his impressive timing when he drove down the ground and he clipped through leg with precision, using the inswing against Dale Steyn, who came around the wicket. Katich was looking ominous and Smith turned to Kallis who angled the ball away from Katich, who once again went fishing for the ball and directed it straight to de Villiers and was caught at second slip for 47. Ricky Ponting was out for a golden duck when Morkel nipped one back off the seam and found Ponting's inside edge as Australia slipped further as Hussey strode in. Both he and Hayden took the ruptured innings further to lunch warding off the dangerous South African pacers who were generating pace, swing and bounce.

 

Hayden and Hussey have both struggled for runs over the past couple of months and neither man looked totally comfortable at the crease. They were watchful and helped each other through the 46-run partnership but in the end the relentless pressure from South Africa's strong attack proved too great. Hayden fell after an eight-over period in which he had only faced 14 balls and the extended time at the non-strikers' end affected his concentration. Dale Steyn plucked out Hayden as he tried to cover-drive with no footwork and edged back onto his stumps. His 31 from 78 balls had featured a couple of strong drives down the ground but it was a scratchy innings, as was Hussey's 30 from 99 deliveries. Hussey fell soon after as he edged a straight ball from Harris to slip and at 4 for 130 it left Australia in a real spot of bother.

 

Micheal Clarke is now facing this dire situations now more regularly as the top-order has been in complete chaos for some-time. Andrew McDonald one of the debutants of this match walked out into the middle with a not so ideal situation. McDonald, an allrounder, was preferred at No. 6 ahead of Brad Haddin but he was clearly nervous in his first few overs and took his first ball on the elbow from Morne Morkel. His third delivery was edged just short of second slip and if he needed another wake-up call it came when he ducked into a Morkel bouncer that crashed into his helmet, which flew off his head and sailed safely over the stumps.

 

The South Africans also caused problems for Clarke, who was dropped at mid-off when he had 12. Clarke advanced in an effort to loft Paul Harris down the ground but failed to get the elevation he wanted and was fortunate the ball bounced out of Makhaya Ntini's raised right hand. Despite the shakes, Clarke and McDonald strung together 32 run stand, in which the debutant after the initial nervous period in the crease began to look confident. As his confidence was growing, Ntini who was not among the wickets finally, delivered his stock ball, wide of the crease, angling in and more importantly pitching it full, drew McDonald onto the front foot, feathering an outside edge en route to Boucher and thus more importantly Australia had lost their fifth wicket. The spunky Haddin was at the crease with the scorecard reading 162 for 5.

 

Haddin was vary initially but then as time passed he began to look confident and took up the role of the aggressor, while Clarke was content to play the second fiddle in the partnership. Together they took the score past 200 run mark, while adding 75 runs in exactly 25 overs. The partnership might was soothed the frayed nerves of the dressing room but as it is in the series, South Africa would allow any kind of momentum to build for the Australian team. Haddin was looking comfortable when Steyn produced a gem to remove Haddin from the batting crease. Johnson walked out into the middle with around 8 overs to go for the day. Clarke was fortunate when he was dropped at short midwicket towards the close of the day. Ntini was the bowler, Clarke pulled a short ball, not convincingly towards short midwicket, where Amla made a mess of the catch.

 

In nutshell, the opening day of the third test test was South Africa's who did not at any stage let the Australian team fire all its cylinders, the batsmen were kept under leash as the bowlers bowled a disciplined line and length and in between producing a wicket taking ball.

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