Australia On Top

Australia put on the knuckle-dusters in what began as a pitched-battle between a side eager to dominate and a group of scrappers playing above their weights. Raw class and a player eager to make his mark, however,
put the kybosh on a South African recovery and they ended the day barely able to throw a punch and seeing stars as the Aussies flexed their collective muscles.

The day began in tense fashion as Matthew Hayden looked to consolidate a comfortable lead and knuckled-down, eschewing now-forgotten impatience
and instilling a sense of calm in the Australian innings which freed others from having to do so. Brad Hodge was given out caught-behind dubiously for 24 and Hussey hung around for a solidly-compiled 31 but
one got the feeling that some fireworks were needed for Australia to take control. Enter Andrew Symonds.

Symonds gave the impression before this match of someone who was struggling to accept that he was good enough to play at this level. It was said at the time that his bowling in the first-innings may have helped him turn the corner. Well his innings today catapulted him all the way ’round it and into a Bruce Lee flying kick aimed directly at his critics. Freed from the pressure of building a long-innings, Symonds cut-loose and brutalised all of the South African bowlers. Nel in particular was dealt some harsh lessons in how to back up aggressive style with pace substance. Eventually, he was contemptuously swiped to all parts of the ground by both Hayden and Symonds with some brutal hitting. Symonds’ 54-ball 72 included 5 fours and 6 lazy sixes in an innings which was quick by one-day standards and although people will say it gave him belief, his innings looked more like that of a man who
knew he had it in him all the time but was waiting for the right stage.

Almost forgotten was Matthew Hayden who opened-up upon reaching three-figures and like Symonds, treated Nel with scant respect. He, in fact, seemed unusually intent on showing his disrespect in his usual inimitable way and made a point of spanking Nel with contemptuous swishes through the on-side. Nel would have felt a puppy in the presence of an alpha-dog as he whimpered out of the attack. One felt that for all his bluster, Nel really only gets wickets when he puts more effort into putting the ball in the right areas and today, he was either too short or too full. The Australian innings finished in a cacophany of wickets to Kallis as they tried to bash as many runs as possible ending on
7/321, Matthew Hayden top-scoring with a high-class 137.

The South Africans began very cautiously against metronomic McGrath and ever-improving Lee. It was only a matter of time before Warne, somewhere near the very top of his game, set-up and induced De Villiers to slide forward out of his crease and excellent work from Gilchrist had him well-short. McGrath extracted a confidence-boosting edge from him Smith and some utterly top-shelf bowling from Warne accounted for an imperious Gibbs, knocked-over by the slider. South Africa were at the edge of the abyss at 3/58 and the introduction of Symonds only compounded their misery (was there any doubt he would take wickets?). First he induced an edge off Kallis, who is rapidly losing his invincible aura, from an excellent length-ball. If that wasn’t enough, he bowled Rudolph with a slightly quicker delivery and when Warne snapped-up Boucher through Pontings safe hands, were suddenly 6/82 and struggling to survive the day, let alone the rest of the Test. Pollock and Prince, with several nervous moments against Australia’s spinners, stopped the bleeding temporarily but at 6/99 by day’s close, South Africa will need a miracle to save the Test.

The best of the Australian bowlers was undoubtably Warne who bowled the majority of the overs for his 3/43 but the bowling of Symonds with 2/6 was special. McGrath appears to be hitting his groove again, Lee was menacing and lucky whilst MacGill was just unlucky, particularly with a perilously close pat-pad decision off Prince.

Day 4: Australia 355 and 7/321 (Hayden 137, Symonds 72; Kallis 3/58) vs
South Africa 311 and 6/99 (Smith 25; Warne 3/43, Symonds 2/6).

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