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29 Dec 2008 10:25
It’s now or never for South Africa as they finished the fourth day of the second Test against Australia on 30 without loss in Melbourne on Monday, needing another 153 runs to win the second Test and clinch their first series triumph Down Under.
It was a day dominated by two cricketing idols as Dale Steyn claimed another five wickets to dismiss Australia for 247, while Ricky Ponting scored 99 to give the home side an outside chance of staying alive in the series.
The Australian captain was within one run of becoming the first batsman to score centuries in each innings of a Test for a fourth time when he lobbed a catch to opposite number Graeme Smith at short cover off Morne Morkel. South Africa’s delight could not be contained as Smith had just moved himself there and Ponting’s dismissal made the difference between a manageable run chase and something tricky in excess of 200.
Steyn had put Australia on the back foot with two top-class spells that earned him two wickets apiece.
Matthey Hayden (23) drove to short cover—a stroke of genius again by Smith—and fellow opener Simon Katich drove loosely to be caught behind for 15.
Morkel bowled Michael Hussey (2) a rip-snorter to have the left-hander caught off his helmet and South Africa were buzzing with Australia on 86 for three at lunch.
Morkel bowled fast and was accurately all day to finish with two for 46 and was unfortunate to have edges off both Ponting and Michael Clarke drop short behind the wicket soon after lunch.
Steyn then returned to break the threatening fourth-wicket stand of 96 when Clarke (29) drove in the air off the back foot to Neil McKenzie at short extra cover.
Makhaya Ntini and Kallis chipped in with the wickets of Brad Haddin (10) and Brett Lee (8) respectively and South Africa were well on top with Australia on 180 for seven at tea.
The dismissal of Ponting an hour after tea left Mitchell Johnson on his own and the powerful left-hander belted 43 not out before the return of Steyn with the second new ball spelt the death knell for the innings.
South Africa, chasing 183 for victory, had six overs to bat before stumps and McKenzie, who has clearly forgotten where his off-stump is, was bowled shouldering arms again. This time it was a Brett Lee no-ball in another moment of dramatic misfortune for Australia.
Smith coolly laid into the bowling at the other end to finish the day on 25 not out and will want to once again show that he is numb to the pressures of a final-day run-chase.
Brett Lee, who was off the field for the entire third-day comeback by South Africa due to a foot stress-fracture, surprisingly opened the bowling for Australia. Calls for the veteran’s head have been coming thick and fast, but the injury, in any event, will keep him off the field for four to six weeks.
It will all come down to left-arm paceman Johnson if Australia are to snatch an unlikely victory.
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