Rudolph reigns as SA snatch draw

Jacques Rudolph defied Australia’s attack with an unbeaten century to help South Africa salvage a draw in the opening cricket Test at the Waca ground in Perth on Tuesday.

Rudolph batted throughout the day, glueing the Proteas’ second innings together with a masterful 102 not out from 283 balls in 431 minutes.

At the close of play South Africa had reached 287-5, still 204 runs short of the 491 they had needed for victory but good enough to keep their hopes alive in the three-Test series.

It was a remarkable achievement from the 24-year-old Rudolph who was called into the side to replace the injured Jacques Kallis.

In the end he virtually mirrored Kallis’ brilliant 1999 innings when the allrounder batted for more than eight hours to score his first Test century against Australia and stave off what had seemed certain defeat during the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.

Only three South African wickets fell all day, starting with Herschelle Gibbs for 33 and Ashwell Prince for eight in the morning session and Kemp, late in the day.

The hosts, red-hot favourites to win the match at the start of play on Tuesday, were left to ponder if they had left their declaration too late.

Captain Ricky Ponting called their second innings to a close as soon as Test newcomer Brad Hodge had brought up his double century just before tea on the fourth day.

Although the decision saw Hodge reach a major Test milestone, it came after the Australians had built-up a monumental lead of 491 runs.

Following the declaration they could take just two wickets in the remaining session and lost a further six overs when bad light stopped play.

Ponting has previously criticised West Indies captain Brian Lara for playing for milestones.

But while the Australians had cause to ponder, the South Africans had reason to celebrate an old-fashioned innings built on concentration and willpower.

They were also left to contemplate what might have been had Hodge been dismissed in the second innings when dropped on 13.

Or more tantilisingly, had they justly been given an earlier crack at the Australian middle order after catching Ponting out early in his innings only to see the delivery wrongfully ruled a no-ball.

The two teams will now head to Melbourne in preparation for the Boxing Day Test which starts on December 26.

South African selectors were facing a headache about who they should drop with Kallis expected to return to the side along with the likely inclusion of spinner Nicky Boje to add variety to their attack.

Rudolph, with his fifth Test century, will clearly be hard to overlook. - Sapa-AFP

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