Aussies push toward big lead

With the scores all level at the start day 3, both teams were keen to gain the upper hand early on. Nightwatchman Brett Lee proved harder to remove than the Proteas had expected and even became the main run scorer in a partnership of 49 with Justin Langer. After some impressive straight drives and decisive running between the wickets, Lee was eventually dismissed lbw to Charl Langeveldt for 32, leaving the score on 2/86.

Ricky Ponting began his innings much in the same vein as Langer, cautious play combined with defensive fields made for a slow start. The Australian captain was gifted one life by umpire Billy Doctrove while on 4. Jacques Rudolph pulled off a fantastic catch at square leg, plucking the ball out of midair only to find that Doctrove had ruled Langeveldt had overstepped the mark. However, replays revealed that the ball was most likely legitimate.

Unfortunately for the tourists, the once shiny ball began to wear while the pitch became more predictable. Just as Langer looked set to build on his tough start, the left-hander was bowled by Shaun Pollock for 47, chopping back onto his stumps after attempting a cut stroke. The scales were still tipped slightly in favour of Australia with their second innings total sitting on 3/129, a lead of 91. However another quick wicket would see a shift in momentum.

Brad Hodge came in at number five and continued the trend of batsmen making a scratchy start, but would reap the rewards of his hard work later on in his innings. After Justin Kemp dropped Hodge for 13, the Proteas’ 4th dropped chance of the match, it seemed luck was swinging in the favour of the world champions. Ponting began to tick the score over, his mind set on marking a big score. Ntini had other ideas about his adversary’s fate and sure enough, soon after reaching his second half-century of the match, Ponting edged a ball that straightened after pitching through to the keeper.

Once again the sides appeared level, the tourists restricting the total to 4/184, still a lead of only 147. However a superb partnership between Hodge and Mike Hussey saw Australia take the honours for day 3. After surviving until tea, both batsmen accelerated and began piling on the runs. Suddenly boundaries began flowing, in particular off the blade of Hodge, who eased past his fifty. Some determined batting by Mike Hussey saw him also reach his fifty, after a Rudolph dropped catch while on 46, just before the close of play while Hodge approached his maiden Test century, finishing on 91 not out. The final session, well and truly dominated by the Australians, ensured a lead of 272 with 6 wickets still remaining.

An outstanding performance will be needed by the South African team if they are to stay in this contest. With the score on 4/310 and two recognised batsmen in Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist still in the pavilion, it will prove very difficult for the tourists to remain in this Test by finishing off Australia’s 2nd innings cheaply.

Score Summary: Stumps – Day 3

Australia (1st Innings): 258
Ponting 71, Hodge 41
Ntini 5-64, Nel 3-29

South Africa(1st Innings): 296
de Villiers 68, Boucher 62
Lee 5/93, Warne 3/92

Australia (2nd Innings): 4/310
Hodge 92*, Hussey 54*, Ponting 53
Langeveldt 2/71

Australia leads by 272 runs

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