Cricket: Australia running on empty

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SOUTH AFRICA capitalised as Australian minds went a- wandering at the Wanderers in the first Test yesterday, taking a three-run lead after Mark Waugh and Allan Border had ruined an increasingly authoritative rearguard action by running themselves out within the space of five overs.

Replying to the South African first-innings total of 251, Australia lost three wickets on the second morning after resuming on 34 without loss, Allan Donald atoning for an expensive spell by dispatching Matthew Hayden (15) and David Boon (17) while Fanie De Villiers, the Australian destroyer in Sydney two months ago, accounted for Michael Slater. This brought together Mark Waugh and Border at a distinctly queasy 70 for 3. At lunch the situation had improved markedly to 123 for 3, only for the foot-shooting to start soon after.

With Australia 115 behind and the fourth-wicket stand worth 66, Waugh (42) was the first to chance his arm, edging into the covers and darting through for a single against his partner's advice. Peter Kirsten duly intercepted and returned to his brother Gary, who whipped off the bails. Six runs later, Border (34) compounded the error by trying his luck against Jonty Rhodes of all people. The world's finest outfielder made a lightning pick-up at point and once again the younger Kirsten effected the run-out.

Handed the initiative, the South African seam quartet swept through the lower orders, picking up Ian Healy, Merv Hughes and Shane Warne before tea. Steve Waugh (45 not out) staved off total collapse, Craig McDermott, with a breezy 31 off 23 balls, assisting in a ninth-wicket stand of 44 before Donald returned to trap him leg before. By the close, Andrew Hudson and Gary Kirsten had extended their side's lead to 45 without alarm.