A resolute and unbroken partnership constructed under leaden skies and comprising 144 runs has saved South Africa from calamity after Graeme Smith had won an awkward toss and gamely taken first innings in the third Test here yesterday. Joining forces at 86 for 3 and with the ball darting around like an inebriated swallow, Jacques Kallis and Ashwell Prince set about the reconstruction of the innings with gritted teeth and firm jaw.
Fighting for every run, they resisted pace bowlers favoured by a pitch freshened by overnight rain and presently turned their attentions to spinners unable to find any purchase in a grassy surface.
Both batsmen played uncommonly well. Kallis went about his work with the classical restraint detected in his game since his marriage. Troubled around off-stump by movement off the seam, he remained unruffled and took advantage of some loose offerings from Stuart MacGill. By stumps he had made 80 not out in 181 deliveries.
Prince, robbed by a poor decision in his previous appearance and tormented throughout the series by Shane Warne, has refused to lose heart. A squat left-hander, he collected busily square of the wicket and towards the end unfurled some handsome off-drives. Categorised under the old dispensation as a "Coloured", he has spoken out against favourable treatment, arguing that he wants to prove himself as a legitimate Test match batsman. Scoring an unbeaten 62 in demanding conditions against the Australians in Sydney takes a man a long way down that path.
Until the third-wicket pair came together, the Australians had the better of proceedings after the start had been delayed until after lunch by a furnace-relieving deluge. Abraham de Villiers has lost confidence and, after being badly dropped at second slip by the home captain, he was beaten for pace by a full-length delivery and taken behind the wicket. Ricky Ponting must have hoped to mark his 100th Test match with something better than a lost toss and a grassed catch.
Smith and Herschelle Gibbs tried hard to subdue some difficult pace bowling as Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee hammered away at their defences. Smith has taken much upon his shoulders, while Gibbs is striving to find a tempo midway between cavalier and roundhead. He played some stirring cover drives before dipping his spoon into the treacle once too often, bowled between bat and pad by McGrath's off-cutter. Smith did not long survive his partner. After scoring 39 unconvincing runs, he was overwhelmed by a fast inswinger from Lee. As usual he departed grumpily, a reaction that provoked hostile comments from parts of a packed ground.Reuse content