Australia 228-5 South Africa: Ponting leads by example to equal Bradman's landmark

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The Independent Online

A late rush of wickets brought South Africa back into the match here and by the end of a rugged and often frustrating first day of the second Test the contest hung in the balance.

After captain Ricky Ponting had obligingly driven a catch to short cover immediately upon reaching three figures, and equalling Don Bradman's landmark of 29 Test centuries, the hosts took the second new ball and struck as Damien Martyn and the nightwatchmen flirted at lively offerings from an irrepressible Makhaya Ntini.

Not since subcontinental and Ashes series in the 1960s has batting been as dull as it was yesterday at Kingsmead as the Australians made their way to 228 for 5 in 88 overs.

The Australians displayed patience and technique as they gradually subdued an opponent playing a grudging game - and this after Australia had lost an early wicket as Matthew Hayden went fishing.

Having taken a 1-0 lead in the series, the Australians were prepared to take their time. Not for the first time Ponting set the tone. Every ball was played on its merits. Mostly he batted watchfully, but he did enjoy some luck in the 321 minutes to hit his century before losing concentration on 103. His innings must count among the toughest of his career since he was forced to play a game contrary to instinct.

Justin Langer was less convincing, though he put a high price on his wicket with 35. Martyn took his place and he, too, worked hard for his 57 runs.

At last came the late flurry wickets and the Australians were mightily relieved to be prematurely offered the light.