Ponting rips SA bowlers to shreds

Ricky Ponting ripped the bowlers to shreds but South Africa still managed to pick up six wickets on an enthralling first day of the second Test in Melbourne on Friday.

Ponting was the one batsman who was able to get the better of South Africa’s waiting game with the ball, the visitors employing a tactic of bowling outside off stump which called for Australia, 1-0 down in the three-match series, to chase the game.

The Australian captain was in prime form as his 101 off just 126 balls was the foundation of the home side’s total of 280 for six, but it was left-arm spinner Paul Harris who continues to inform the partisan crowds Down Under of his under-rated abilities, who claimed his wicket in a crucial over just before tea.

Harris got his delivery to bounce hip-high as the Australian captain pushed defensively forward, the ball coming off the shoulder of the bat, going on to the pad and looping to Hashim Amla at short-leg. Harris had insisted he move there from silly point in the previous over.

Opener Simon Katich had breezed to his half-century before lunch as he and Ponting made light of the early loss of Matthew Hayden (8) in a second-wicket stand of 107. The return of Dale Steyn after lunch had an obvious impact as Katich (54) inside-edged an inswinger into his stumps and Michael Hussey ended an awkward 17-minute stay for nought by edging an attempted leave to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher.

Michael Clarke decided that he would eliminate all risk from his game as he ended the day with a doughty, but dour, 36 not out, but Andrew Symonds (27) and Brad Haddin (40) were both victims of South Africa’s successful application of the waiting game.

Symonds fell after four successive maidens from Harris and Morne Morkel, Jacques Kallis taking a sharp catch at second slip, while Haddin edged an ambitious drive off Makhaya Ntini in the penultimate over of the day when more caution was called for.

South Africa’s bowling attack had their hiccups through the day.

Morkel was horribly wayward in his first spell with three overs costing 29 runs, although he pulled it back to finish the day with one for 67 in 17 overs.

Kallis had produced a fine first spell of swing bowling, but it could only last five overs before he left the field with a leg injury after slipping on the glassy pitch.
Fortunately, the champion all-rounder was able to bowl again as the injury eased and was unfortunate to finish the day without a wicket.

Steyn produced a top-class second spell of two for 31 in nine overs to finish with two for 61 in 21 overs, showing signs of getting into top gear after a slightly off-colour first Test in Perth.

Ntini had figures of two for 71 in 21 overs and also looked in good shape, while the impressive Harris had one for 33 in 16 overs.

South Africa allowed the last four Australian wickets to add 116 and 162 runs in Perth, much to captain Graeme Smith’s anger, and the visitors will need to avoid a repeat performance in Melbourne if they are to capitalise on a good first day’s work.

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