Michael Clarke scored a defiant unbeaten 73 to save Australia the blushes as he steered his team to 267 for six on a keenly contested opening day of the third and final cricket Test against South Africa here on Saturday.
Australia,staring at a rare series whitewash,were tottering at 162 for five when Clarke and stumper Brad Haddin (38) joined hands to resurrect the innings with a 73-run partnership for the sixth wicket.
Dale Steyn removed Haddin late in the day to tilt the balance slightly in South Africas favour on an engrossing opening days play at the Sydney Cricket Ground. However,by the time Haddin began his walk back to hut,Australia had reached a position from where they can continue their fight to save their number one ranking in Test cricket.
Australia were pegged back by a top-order failure with Haydens awful run continuing and Ponting falling for a duck while none of the other batsmen could hang around for long. The visitors attack fired in unison with each bowler accounting for one Australian scalp in the first five wickets after the hosts decided to bat on winning the toss.
Clarke struck nine fours in his 151-ball knock and was holding the fort with pace spearhead Mitchell Johnson (17) when stumps were drawn for the day. Haddin played a superb supportive role to Clarke with his 79-ball 38,which included four fours and one shot over the fence.
Opener Hayden,under tremendous pressure following his prolonged form slump,scored 31 and with Simon Katich provided Australia their first 50-run plus opening partnership in the series.
Smith in doubt
Meanwhile,South Africa captain Graeme Smith has admitted that he may have to sit out of the return series against Australia in his home turf if the injured elbow does not heal after injecting his own blood. Smith will fly home after the Test.
The length of time needed to recover from surgery fully wouldn’t allow me to be fit for the home series. I guess we’ve got to look and see where we go and see how the home series goes and hopefully something works out, said Smith.
SCOREBOARD: Australia (1st Innings): M Hayden b Steyn 31,S Katich c de Villiers b Kallis 47,R Ponting c Boucher b Morkel 0, M Hussey c Kallis b Harris 30,M Clarke batting 73,A McDonald c Boucher b Ntini 15,B Haddin b Steyn 38,M Johnson batting 17,Extras (lb-7,w-2,nb-7) 16; Total (for 6 wkts in 88 overs) 267
Fall of wickets: 1-62,2-63,3-109,4-130,5-162,6-237.
Bowling: D Steyn 21-4-71-2,M Ntini 19-5-53-1,M Morkel 17-3-49-1,J Kallis 15-4-43-1,P Harris 16-3-44-1.