Aussies in control

The Aussies began day four of the 2nd Test 227 runs ahead, with Ponting and Hayden at the crease. The South Africans would have harboured hopes of removing one of them early on, but they were chasing leather for much of the day as the pair put on 201 and both notched up hundreds to leave South Africa a target of 410, or more realistically, to survive the remainder of the match.

Ponting has been in brilliant form throughout the summer and with his record-breaking 2nd hundred of the match, made it seven hundreds in a golden season. It was also the 3rd time this summer that Ponting scored two hundreds in a match after first doing it against the West Indies in Brisbane and again against South Africa in his 100th Test match, making him only the 2nd person to score two hundreds in a match twice, equal with Sunil Gavaskar. With his hundred, Ponting moved past Don Bradman’s record of 29 Test tons and is now only two behind the Australian record of 32 by Steve Waugh, and 5 behind the world record of 35 held by Sachin Tendulkar.

However, his knock wasn’t just one for the record books. In contrast with an unusually subdued performance in his 100 on day one, Ponting cut loose on the fourth day as the Aussies batted for a declaration. Playing his trademark pull shot beautifully, including one of mid-wicket for six off the bowling of Pollock, Ponting batted with authority to move to 116 from an overnight score of 48*. Ponting’s knock included two sixes and 12 fours and consumed just 187 balls.

Meanwhile, Matthew Hayden also got into the swing of things after batting cautiously in the dying hours of day three. Resuming on 35 off 101 deliveries, Hayden soon caught up to Ponting and even beat him to his ton. After adding 67 in 116 deliveries in the day, Hayden went for a well-compiled 26th Test hundred. His dismissal only brought Martyn to the crease, who had played well to make a battling half-century on day one. Martyn was content to play second fiddle in the short partnership with Ponting. However, Ponting didn’t last and was caught by a diving Boje at midwicket for 116.

The next batsman in was Gilchrist, sent up the order in place of Hussey for some quick runs in search of a declaration. With the lead nearing 400, Gilchrist didn’t waste any time playing himself in with a whirlwind innings of 24 off only nine deliveries. The partnership with Martyn yielded 29 in only 15 balls, and included a 22 run over off Andre Nel where Gilchrist hit five fours and a two. However, Gilchrist didn’t last long, holing out to long-on off the bowling of Boje to leave the Aussies at 307-4. Ponting immediately declared, leaving a target of 410 for South Africa.

The South African innings began with Lee on a hat-trick, having taken the last two wickets in the first innings in consecutive deliveries. The South African openers had to face a nasty period before tea, but with de Villiers facing the first ball, Lee was denied of the achievement. De Villiers batted with authority in his short stay at the crease while Smith looked to play it safe after his first ball dismissal in the first innings. The post-tea session lasted only 2.1 overs, with bad light preventing any further play after 7.1 overs in the South African innings.

The task will be difficult for the South Africans on day five. Although the pitch is still playing well, it won’t be a simple task to resist Clark and Kasprowicz, and in particular, Lee and Warne. They will have visions of repeating their achievement at Perth, where Rudolph batted beautifully to secure a draw against the Aussies while the weather could be on their side. However, Australia still have plenty of time to bowl out the South Africans and take a 2-0 lead in the series. Should the South Africans draw the match, Ponting’s tactics will again be scrutinised. With the weather closing in, the delayed declaration puzzled many. Despite these concerns, the match is poised for an exciting finish.

Australian 369
Ricky Ponting 103, Mike Hussey 75
Makhaya Ntini 3-81, Andre Nel 3-83

South Africa 267
Jacques Kallis 114, AB de Villiers 50
Brett Lee 5-69, Stuart Clark 2-37

Australia 307-4d
Ricky Ponting 116, Matthew Hayden 102
Nicky Boje 2-87, Shaun Pollock 1-55

South Africa 27-0
AB de Villiers 17*, Graeme Smith 10*

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