Australia's captain Ricky Ponting scored a century, but his team remain in a battle to square the series against South Africa after the opening day of the second Test here in Melbourne yesterday.
Ponting smashed an entertaining 101 off only 126 balls before being dismissed by the last ball of the second session, but regular wickets at the other end left the hosts on 280 for 6 at the close. Michael Clarke, who has made 36, will be entrusted with the task of steering Australia to 400 when they resume this morning. Still reeling from their six-wicket loss in the opening Test, Australia lost opener Matthew Hayden cheaply. Hayden attempted to drive Makhaya Ntini but succeeded only in picking out JP Duminy at point. Hayden has now made 290 runs at 22.3 since his last hundred in January.
Fellow opener Simon Katich was in fine form and was largely untroubled. But on 54, he played on to an innocuous delivery from Dale Steyn. Michael Hussey succumbed to his first delivery from Steyn. Unable to withdraw his bat in time, Hussey feathered one behind to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher for his third duck from his past five innings.
In the afternoon session, Ponting plundered Ntini for three consecutive boundaries, the first taking him past 50. He raced through the 90s, taking just five balls to go from 87 to three figures, but his innings ended when he was caught at short leg by Hashim Amla off Paul Harris.
Andrew Symonds and Brad Haddin made bright starts, but could not curb their natural aggression and were victims of outstanding slip catching. Symonds edged Morne Morkel to Jacques Kallis at second slip for 27, and Haddin's dismissal for 40 in the penultimate over of the day was particularly bitter for the Australians, who had batted with tremendous application against the second new ball.
*The West Indies and New Zealand made Twenty20 history yesterday when the Caribbean side won the format's first one-over tie-breaker after the sides were level after 20 overs. Captain Chris Gayle hit 67 from 41 balls to guide his team to 155 for 8 in reply to New Zealand's 155 for 7. West Indies then outscored New Zealand in the one-over play-off, giving the tourists a 1-0 lead in the two-match series which concludes at Hamilton tomorrow.