Cricket:Warne on familiar territory

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Like many before them, South Africa's batsmen found the combination of Shane Warne and the spinner-friendly pitch at Sydney irresistible yesterday, and now face a long battle to avoid defeat in the second Test.

The blond leg-spinner took five wickets in a single session to put Australia firmly in command, despite clearly being hampered by a recurrence of his long-term shoulder injury. He worked his way through the last five South African batsman before lunch on the second day to help dismiss the tourists for 287 in their first innings at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

At close of play on a day dominated by the home side, Australia were handily placed at 174 for 3, a deficit of just 113 runs after they lost the openers Matthew Elliott and captain Mark Taylor relatively cheaply.

Mark Waugh built on the impetus provided by Warne's performance in quickly wrapping up South Africa's comparatively lacklustre innings by hitting an unbeaten and typically stylish 78 in 135 balls, his 31st Test half- century.

With one six and nine fours already to his name, Waugh dominated a partnership with his brother Steve, who finished on 18 not out in his 100th Test. The brothers added 71 runs in an unbroken and highly entertaining partnership that was in marked contrast to the slow progress earlier in the day, when the scoring rate hovered around two runs an over for long periods.

Warne made a telling and unexpectedly belated impact on the match after toiling for 22 overs without reward on Friday despite conditions that should have ideally suited the leg- spinner. The second day proved to be a landmark day for him, however. In taking his 13th five-wicket haul in Test cricket, Warne became the second-highest Australian wicket-taker in test history.

His total of 294 wickets in 63 Tests lifted him above the former fast bowler Craig McDermott in the standings, with only the great fast bowler Dennis Lillee - who claimed 355 wickets in 70 Tests - ahead of him.

"I was disappointed by my performance on Friday," said Warne, who has set his sights on taking his 300th wicket in the present three-Test series. "I thought the wicket played a bit quicker today and that helped me. I knew that the first session would be crucial and that it was important we took some quick wickets to keep in the game," said Warne, who admitted he was troubled by his shoulder after bowling 80 overs in the drawn First Test in Melbourne which finished on Tuesday. "I have been sore for a few days now," he said.

Resuming on 197 for 5, the South Africans succumbed to Warne in 124.1 overs, with only their captain Hansie Cronje offering any prolonged resistance. Cronje spent five-and-a-half hours at the crease and looked set for a deserved century before he perished on 88 edging an attempted cover drive off Warne to Taylor at slip.

Warne, regarded as the most likely bowler on either side to exploit a slow, turning pitch in Sydney, finished with figures of 5 for 75 in 32.1 overs. He also accounted for the wicketkeeper Dave Richardson, the pace bowler Shaun Pollock and spinners Pat Symcox and Paul Adams. In reply, Australia lost Elliott for 32 and Taylor for 11 with Pollock and Symcox sharing the spoils. Greg Blewett was bowled for 28 late in the day when he dragged a delivery from the medium-pacer Brian McMillan on to his stumps.