Hussey's audacity provokes show of tourists' tenacity

Australia 355 South Africa 169-2
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The Independent Online

An extraordinary day played in blazing sunshine and on a cracking pitch ended with the batsmen continuing their surprising domination of this second Test here yesterday. Throughout, the bowling was respectable and the batting inspired as the Australian rally was matched by an equally sturdy performance from their opponents. By stumps the struggle between Antipodean aggression and African defiance remained unresolved.

Michael Hussey set the tone with a sublime innings. Combining audacity and clear thinking with surges of power, the adaptable left-hander produced his third and most startling Test century. His life has changed considerably since he made his debut 54 days ago. Resuming at 23, Hussey scored quickly without risking everything on a single shot. He has a keen eye, a wide range of shots and an abundance of cricketing intelligence.

Not even the swift removal of Stuart MacGill at 248 caused him to panic. Instead, the West Australian chased runs with even greater intent. Andre Nel was greeted with a brace of sixes over long-off. Twice Nicky Boje's meagre offerings were dispatched into the crowd at deep midwicket.

At 27, Hussey was badly dropped at second slip by Jacques Kallis. Altogether in this series the visitors have grassed 10 catches at a cost of 500 runs. Graeme Smith's tactics were also dubious. No sooner had MacGill arrived than he spread the field for the senior partner and then crowded the bat for the last two deliveries of the over. Charging cannons on horses has a better record than this dubious strategy. Inevitably, Hussey pushed the fourth ball for a single or, thwarted, carted the remainder over the infield.

Meanwhile, Glenn McGrath presented a staunch straight bat. Altogether he faced 57 deliveries without losing his wicket. Indeed, he became his team's fourth highest scorer. Hussey reached his hundred before lifting his head and missing his 203rd delivery, by which time the last-wicket pair had added 107 transforming runs.

South Africa might easily have fallen in a heap. Instead, they batted with aplomb. Challenged by his counterpart to back words with deeds, Smith advanced confidently before working across an inswinger from Brett Lee. Throughout the Australians swung the ball more than their opponents. Uneven bounce also worried the batsmen as, later, did the sight of the ball spinning sharply.

Undeterred, the second-wicket pair pushed the score along. A B De Villiers again batted pluckily. Nothing scares him, not fast bowling, leg-spin or another large crowd basking in a vast amphitheatre. Herschelle Gibbs provided solid support.

Eventually De Villiers lost his bearings against an off-cutter and was dispatched. Jacques Kallis joined Gibbs and the experienced pair took their team safely to stumps. Incredibly, only four wickets had fallen in 390 minutes. It is not going to last.