Cricket: Waugh hoodoo hits South Africa

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The Independent Online
Australia 206-4 v South Africa

South Africa must be sick of the sight of Steve Waugh. Another fighting knock when the chips were down rescued Australia from a grim 77 for 4 to a comfortable 206 for 4 at the close of the first day of the first Test in Melbourne.

Waugh's stonewall resistance gave way to accomplished stroke-making to leave him unbeaten on 87 at stumps. His knock and Ricky Ponting's 56 not out wrested the initiative from Hansie Cronje's side after two sessions of grindingly slow scoring.

In eight Tests against South Africa, Waugh has amassed 760 runs at an average of 84.44. He is within sight of his third century against them, having scored 164 in Adelaide almost four years ago and 160 in Johannesburg last February.

Waugh and Ponting's 129-run partnership took just 150 minutes - a dazzling turnaround after only 92 runs in the four hours up to tea.

"It is important that we build up a big first innings because the wicket is only going to get harder to bat on and [Shane] Warne is going to play a big part in this game because Pat Symcox did spin a few today," Ponting said. With the bowlers straying off line late in the day and the slow pitch playing a little easier, runs flowed in the last session - much to the relief of the 73,812 crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the biggest Test crowd at the venue in 22 years.

The South Africans, fancying their chances of ending Australia's pursuit of their ninth straight Test series victory, controlled much of the day with accurate line and length and acrobatic fielding.

Just 18 runs were scored in the first hour and South Africa went to lunch with three prized wickets - those of Matthew Elliott, Mark Taylor and Mark Waugh - after only conceding 44 runs in 120 minutes.

Australia won toss

AUSTRALIA - First Innings

M T Elliott c Richardson b Klusener 6

*M A Taylor c Kirsten b McMillan 20

G S Blewett st Richardson b Symcox 26

M E Waugh c Richardson b Donald 0

S R Waugh not out 87

R T Ponting not out 56

Extras (b1, lb5, nb5) 11

Total (for 4, 90 overs) 206

Fall: 1-18, 2-42, 3-44, 4-77.

To bat: I A Healy, P R Reiffel, S K Warne, M S Kasprowicz, G D McGrath.

Bowling: Donald 17-5-35-1 (2nb); Pollock 21-5-56-0 (nb); Klusener 15- 3-28-1 (2nb); McMillan 10-3-19-1; Symcox 19-3-46-1; Kallis 4-2-5-0; Cronje 4-2-11-0.

SOUTH AFRICA: G Kirsten, A M Bacher, J H Kallis, D J Cullinan, *W J Cronje, B M McMillan, S M Pollock, L Klusener, D J Richardson, P L Symcox, A A Donald.

Umpires: S Bucknor (WI) and S Randell (Aus).