SA start well, but Australia fight back

When rain stopped play about 40 minutes before the scheduled close of play on the first day of the first Castle Lager Test between South Africa and Australia at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, it was difficult to judge who had the upper hand. Australia ended the day on 254 for five.

Ricky Ponting continued his run of luck at the toss, and chose to bat first.

Earlier, he presented three players—opening batsman Phil Hughes, all-rounder Marcus North and seam bowler Ben Hilfenhaus—with their “baggy green” caps—the most presented in a single match since the Adelaide Test against India in 1985, and Australia entered the Test with the most inexperienced side for 20 years.

Hughes, who came into the side after a very successful domestic season, had an inauspicious start to his Test career when he was caught behind by Mark Boucher without scoring off the fourth ball from Dale Steyn.

Steyn struck again in the ninth over when Neil McKenzie, fielding in the gully, dived to his right to take a superb one-handed catch to dismiss Simon Katich for three.

Michael Hussey’s woes against South Africa continued when Jacques Kallis took a very good catch in the slips to give Morne Morkel his 50th Test wicket in his 16th Test. Hussey, who took 14 balls to get off the mark, was out for four.

Ricky Ponting was given a life when he was on 40 when he was dropped by his South African counterpart, Graeme Smith.
One of the Australian
journalists commented “You’ve just dropped the mace,” referring to the ICC Test Championship Trophy that will go to the team that wins the series.

For a while, it appeared that the scribe was correct—Ponting and his vice-captain Michael Clarke came out firing after lunch, adding 69 runs in the first hour. Graeme Smith made South African Test history by using the Player Review system, when he asked for a possible catch behind off Morne Morkel to be referred to the third umpire. However, replays showed that the ball brushed his pocket and Ponting was given not out. He responded by hitting Ntini for six off the next ball.

South Africa suffered a blow shortly before lunch when Jacques Kallis had to leave the field with a sore back. He was taken to hospital for a scan, which showed no injury, and he is expected to be
fit to bowl on Friday.

Makhaya Ntini made the breakthrough South Africa needed just after the drinks break when he sent a delivery that clipped Ponting’s pad and then clattered into his wicket. Ponting made 83 off 134 balls, including 11 fours and a six. Ponting and Clarke put on 113 for the fourth wicket.

Dale Steyn grabbed his third wicket of the day two overs before tea when Clarke got an edge to a widish delivery and was caught by Boucher for 68.

It was his 13th Test 50 and his third against South Africa. Clarke’s was the last wicket to fall, with debutant North and Brad Haddin sharing an unbeaten sixth wicket stand of 72. North ended the
day not out on 47, while Haddin had 37.

One of the most important Tests since South Africa’s readmission to international cricket got off to an unfortunate start, when the main scoreboard failed to work at the start of play. However, this problem was quickly resolved.

There were also technical problems with radio broadcasts, which left thousands of office workers and motorists unable to listen to commentary on the match. This was resolved by the afternoon, and Radio 2000 started broadcasting ball by ball commentary from 3pm.

The people of Johannesburg responded well to the Gauteng Cricket Board’s (GCB) appeal for them to support the Proteas, and by close of play, more than 10 000 people had gone through the turnstiles. More than 95 000 tickets have been sold for the whole match, which means the
GCB is likely to achieve its goal of more than 94 700 spectators for the whole match. - Sapa

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