Cricket: Donald throws a lifeline to South Africa

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Australia 309 & 67-4

South Africa 186

Allan Donald took three top order Australian wickets to put South Africa back in contention in the first Test at Melbourne yesterday. After having dismissed South Africa for 186, Australia finished the third day on 67 for 4 after Donald produced a devastating early spell to remove Matthew Elliott, Greg Blewett and Mark Waugh.

Donald closed in on Hugh Tayfield's South African record of 170 Test wickets, removed Elliott for one, Blewett for six and Waugh for one to record his 168th victim from 36 Tests. At that stage Australia were reeling on 12 for 3.

Elliott completed a sorry match, following his six in the first innings, when he offered no shot as he was struck high on the pads. The West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor had no hesitation in raising the finger, however. Blewett, who had batted well for 26 in the first innings and had faced just seven deliveries for six runs, was next to fall, edging a head-high chance off Donald to an alert Brian McMillan at second slip. Donald completed his hat-trick by claiming the scalp, for one, of Mark Waugh, who again proved to be fragile under pressure, following on from his duck in the first innings.

Donald's new-ball partner, Shaun Pollock, took the crucial wicket of Steve Waugh for 17. Waugh, who hit a solid 96 in the first innings, was caught off a glove down the leg-side by a diving Dave Richardson as the South Africans fought to prevent Australia building an insurmountable fourth-innings target.

With the threat of the Australian legspinner Shane Warne to come on a pitch that has hampered stroke-making since the start, South Africa were looking at the prospect of a torrid time after their poor first innings.

The pace bowler Michael Kasprowicz and Warne took three wickets each as South Africa crumbled after lunch, losing five wickets for 39 runs in 74 minutes to be all out for 186. The loss of McMillan for 48 - one of the wicketkeeper Ian Healy's four catches - started the rot, leaving the tourists at 182 for 8.

Three of South Africa's post-lunch wickets were lbw decisions, one of them a contentious verdict by Bucknor to dismiss Pollock, who appeared to have stretched well forward down the wicket to Warne, but was given out for seven.

The part-time spinner Mark Waugh chipped in with the wickets of the top scorer Gary Kirsten - who is currently one of the best openers in the world on recent form - for 83 and Richardson for one. Kirsten also left the wicket shaking his head, after the Australian umpire, Steve Randell, gave him out, caught behind by Healy as he attempted to cut Mark Waugh. Television replays proved inconclusive, but it was a brave decision by the umpire which gave a vital breakthrough to Australia, ending a 62-run partnership. Kirsten had faced 256 balls and hit seven fours.

It was left-handed Kirsten's highest Test score against Australia, following his 67 in the second Sydney Test in 1994. It was only his second half- century in 17 innings against Australia.

Warne finished with 3 for 64 off 42 overs, while Kasprowicz, who was used sparingly by Taylor, claimed 3 for 28 off 13.5 overs, rounding off proceedings by bowling Pat Symcox for four.

Australia won toss

AUSTRALIA - First Innings 309 (R T Ponting 105, S R Waugh 96; P L Symcox 4-69).

SOUTH AFRICA - First Innings

(Overnight: 94 for 4)

G Kirsten c Healy b M.Waugh 83

B M McMillan c Healy b Kasprowicz 48

S M Pollock lbw b Warne 7 D J Richardson lbw b M Waugh 1

L Klusener lbw b Warne 11

P L Symcox b Kasprowicz 4

A A Donald not out 0

Extras (nb6 w1 lb2) 9

Total (106.5 overs) 186

Fall (cont): 5-138 6-155 7-158 8-182 9-182.

Bowling: McGrath 17-9-20-1; Reiffel 14-5-32-0 (nb2); Kasprowicz 13.5- 3-28-3 (nb2); Warne 42-15-64-3 (nb2 w1); M Waugh 18-8-28-2; S Waugh 2- 0-12-0.

AUSTRALIA - Second Innings

*M A Taylor not out 30

M T Elliott lbw b Donald 1

G S Blewett c McMillan b Donald 6

M E Waugh b Donald 1

S R Waugh c Richardson b Pollock 17

R T Ponting not out 8

Extras (2b 1lb 1nb) 4

Total (for 4, 37 overs) 67

Fall: 1-4 2-10 3-12 4-44.

Bowling (to date): Donald 12-5-14-3 (1nb); Pollock 7-2-16-1; Symcox 16- 6-28-0; McMillan 2-0-6-0.

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