South Africa defeats Australia in second cricket test

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

South Africa convincingly beat Australia by 9 wickets in the second cricket test being played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It was the first time Australia has been beaten on home soil since 1992 when the West Indies beat Australia by 2-1 in the five match series. It was a see-sawing game that had both teams appear to be on top at times and only hours later struggling. The turning point came late on day three when Jean-Paul Duminy solidified the South African innings going on to eventually make a personal high score of 166. His partnership of 180 with Dale Steyn, who was dropped three times, became a frustration to Australia.

Australia commenced proceedings and was eventually dismissed for 394 in its first innings. The innings finally ended in the first session of day two when Peter Siddle was caught in second slip by de Villiers of a thick edge from a Kallis seamer. It was a sound score after Australia again started slowly losing Mathew Hayden for 8 when the score was 21 continuing a run of bad scores for Hayden this year.

Captain Ricky Ponting again was the mainstay of the innings with a hard fought century, finally falling to a catch by Amla of Paul Harris. This was Pontings 38th century and now only three behind Sachin Tendulkar world record. Middle order batsman Michael Clarke struggled early with slow scoring and remained not out on 88 of a 208 balls including only four boundaries and a solitary six for Clarke.

South African speedster Dale Steyn again proved his ranking as worlds second best bowler taking five wickets including Simon Katich and Michael Hussey. In the second day morning session he removed Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson in the same over before taking his final wicket of Nathan Hauritz.Steyne finished with 5 for 87 and was well supported by Ntini (2/108) with Kallis, Harris and Morkel each taking one.

South Africa's run chase hit trouble with the loss of early wickets in its first innings. The trouble started when Neil McKenzie was bowled by Peter Siddle for a duck in the second over of the day. Amla showed some early promise before playing a loose shot to be caught by Andrew Symonds of the bowling of Mitchell Johnson in the eighth over. South African veteran Jaques Kallis provided support for Smith to carry the score to 109 before being caught behind of Hauritz.

Returning from the lunch break Australia took control with three quick wickets in nine overs. First to go was Smith caught behind of Siddle who was gaining in confidence. Only Smith managed to assert control scoring 62 from 113 balls, he has been the mainstay of the South African batting line-up this tour scoring strongly in each innings. Soon after de villiers and Boucher's wickets fell leaving South Africa 6-141 still trailing Australia by more than 250 runs and attempting to avoid the follow-on.

In the final session middle order players Morne Morkel and Jean-Paul Duminy steadying the innings with partnership of 43 before Morkel was bowled by Johnson in his first ball of a new spell. Paul Harris joined Duminy and remained unbeaten on 8 at the close of play. South Africa finished the second day of play at 7/198 with Duminy the last of the recognized batters unbeaten on 34. Australia clearly held the advantage with a lead of almost 200 and only three wickets remaining.

Day three would change the shape of the game with strong, determined batting from South Africa combined with lackluster bowling from Australia. Harris was out early on day three which brought pace bowler Dale Steyn to the wicket. His 76 of 191 balls was another personal best and despite being dropped three times looked every part the batsman.Duminy had total control of the bowlers and with Lee sitting on the sideline with suspected stress fractures of his heel, the bowling attack was limited and struggling. His innings of over seven hours included 340 balls, 18 boundaries , took the score from 6-141 to all out for 459, a lead of 65 runs. The falls of Duminys wicket late on day three meant Australia was required to face a tough three overs to close the day.

Australia began the fourth day with the goal of wiping out the deficit from their first innings and then set a target for South Africa to chase. Those plans quickly changed when Australia's opening combination of Hayden and Katich again failed with Hayden being caught by man of the moment Duminy on 23 from the bowling of Steyn. Katich fell two overs later and when Hussey was dismissed for only two in the 15th over Australia was in trouble and defending grimly at 3-49. First innings century maker, Ricky Ponting, and Michael Clarke steadied Australia and took the score to 145 when Clarke became Steyn's third wicket for the innings. Symonds, Haddin and Lee fell in quick succession with Australia reeling at 7-180 and only Ponting providing resistance. Ponting eventually fell for 99 having struggled through the nineties and then seemingly "choked" on an easy ball that should have brought up his century. Mitchell Johnson atoned for his first innings duck and supported Ponting well and continued his aggressive approach to finish on 43. Hauritz and Siddle offered little resistance and Australia was all out for 247 a lead of only 182 and more than a days play remaining.

Graeme Smith commenced the run chase with his usual aggression making striking boundaries at will and finishing the days play at 25 after only six overs. Smith continued the same approach the following morning taking a total of ten boundaries in his score of 75 from only 95 balls. He had taken South Africa to a winning position and needing only 61 runs to win a historic test series. Neil McKenzie and Hashim Amla confidently closed the game finishing on 1-183 from only 48 overs.

For Australia the pain was magnified with key players Symonds and Lee unlikely to take further part in the series due to injury and should Australia lose the last test in Sydney they would not only lose the world number one spot, they would fall to number three behind India with the Protea's taking top place. The final game will be played in Sydney on the 3rd January.


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