Umpiring travesties overshadow Ponting's milestone century

South Africa 451-9dec &amp; 4-1 Australia 359<br/><i>Match abandoned at 73 mins</i>
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Shocking mistakes perpetrated by a highly-paid judiciary had a dampening effect on a testy third day played before an enthusiastic crowd and memorable for a timely century from the home captain. However, not even Ricky Ponting's masterly hand could distract attention from the injustices that took place before 23,000 pairs of eyes and millions more watching on television.

Had Michael Hussey and Ponting been dispatched when they stopped the ball hitting the stumps with their leg-guards the visitors might have secured a huge lead. Later, the wheel turned as Andrew Symonds was given out when the ball was missing leg-stump by a foot.

Symonds's dismissal was followed by the loss of three wickets for four runs whereupon Adam Gilchrist rattled South Africa as he hoicked, drove and cut his way to 86 in 110 balls.

Hussey's reprieve was critical. Needing a wicket as Ponting stroked the ball around nonchalantly, the tourists introduced Andre Nel, a move that generally does the trick. One senses that Nel was given gobstoppers as a baby and ever since has been making up lost ground.

Running to the crease like an enraged giraffe, he sent down a fine delivery that pitched on middle and leg-stumps before proceeding in the direction recommended by Sub-Lieutenant Phillips in The Navy Lark, whose only navigational instruction was "left hand down a bit". Plain as day the ball was heading towards the middle peg. Nor had it climbed with any alacrity. Alas the senior umpire, Aleem Dar, solemnly shook his head. Granted no right of appeal, the visitors had to accept the blow. Not that Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, looked any more pleased than had his counterpart, Ponting, when an appeal was wrongly rejected on the first day.

Dar was also the culprit in the second palpable mistake and this time he did not even consider the evidence. Ponting had advanced to 95 with his customary efficiency and aggression. Pulling with stunning power and straight driving clinically, the nimble righthander had taken charge of the bowling. Smith recalled Charles Langeveldt. Ponting worked across a straight delivery and was taken on the pad.

Half the South African side launched an impassioned appeal. Not for the first time, Dar merely walked across towards mid-off quietly shaking his head. Doubtless he reasoned that Langeveldt was releasing the ball from too wide of the crease to be given a leg before. Replays confirmed that the batsmen was struck in line and that the ball was heading towards the sticks.

Symonds was the "makeup" as a full inswinger sliding down the legside landed on his toe. A senior umpire had made a fourth successive error. Obviously these incidents were the result of the pressure put on them. Determined to renew their aggression, the Australians have been feisty all summer. No protection was given to the umpires until it was too late. By then the South Africans had decided to join the party. Did anyone expect them to take it lying down?

Altogether Ponting faced 174 balls as he recorded his 27th Test century in his 100th match. He is the highest-ranked batsmen in the world and leads the strongest side.

Hussey eventually found form before he was bamboozled by Johan Botha's interesting doosra. Shane Warne wafted at his first ball from Nel and was caught by Mark Boucher, while Brett Lee parried a bumper from Kallis to Smith at first slip when on 17.

However, the ninth-wicket pair of Gilchrist and Stuart MacGill cheerfully smote 59 in 66 balls. When MacGill skied a catch to mid-on off Shaun Pollock, Glenn McGrath joined Gilchrist and the last pair added 37 as the second new ball was slaughtered, To make matters worse, South Africa lost a wicket as darkness fell across Sydney, Lee trapping AB de Villiers lbw.

Sydney scoreboard

Third Test Australia v South Africa

Sydney Cricket Ground (Third day of five)

South Africa won toss

South Africa - First innings 451 for 9 dec (A G Prince 119, J H Kallis 111).

Australia - First Innings (Overnight: 54-3)

J L Langer b Langeveldt 25

M L Hayden b Langeveldt 4

* R T Ponting lbw b Kallis 120

B J Hodge c Rudolph b Nel 6

M E K Hussey c Boucher b Botha 45

A Symonds lbw b Nel 12

ÝA C Gilchrist c Boucher b Nel 86

S K Warne c Boucher b Nel 0

B Lee c Smith b Kallis 17

S C G MacGill c Nel b Pollock 29

G McGrath not out 1

Extras (lb 10 nb2 w2) 14

Total (all out, 95.1 overs) 359

Fall: 1-22 2-35 3-54 4-184 5-222 6-226 7-226 8-263 9-322 10-359.

Bowling: Pollock 25-3-109-1; Langeveldt 24-4-108-2; Nel 24.1-3-81-4; Kallis 15-4-25-2; J Botha 7-2-26-1.

South Africa - Second Innings

* G C Smith not out 3

A B de Villiers lbw b Lee 1

Total (for 1 wickets, 1.3 overs) 4

Fall: 1-4

To bat: H H Gibbs, J H Kallis, A G Prince, J A Rudolph, ÝM VBoucher, S M Pollock, C K Langeveldt, A Nel, J Botha

Bowling: McGrath 1-0-4-0 ; Lee 0.3-0- 0-1.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and BF Bowden (NZ)