Stage set for a thriller

The South Africans resumed their 2nd innings at 250-8, looking for some quick runs to give Australia a target beyond 300 to chase. However, they were hampered by a fast and furious Lee who took the last two wickets quickly. The eventual target for the Aussies was 292 to take a 3-0 series victory.

The Aussie reply began in terrible fashion with Hayden gone for a duck before the innings account had been opened. With Nel unwell, captain Jacques Kallis had to do a lot more bowling than he is usually accustomed, although his first wicket of the innings was a big one. Ponting was caught behind off an inside edge and the Australian innings was faltering at 33-2.

The arrival of Martyn at the crease brought a calm head to the crease. Along with Hussey – opening in place of the injured Langer – the pair batted sensibly while letting anything wide go through to the ‘keeper. Their stand wasn’t without danger though. Hussey was lucky to survive early on with a few close LBW decisions going his way and an edge through to Boucher given not out. At the other end, Martyn batted without any alarms and looked as if he’d rediscovered his pre-Ashes form.

As Hussey and Martyn batted on and on, the South Africans wilted. The pair added an invaluable 165 in 317 balls when Hussey was dismissed LBW by Boje for 89. The dismissal of Hussey brought Symonds to the crease. With his place in the team under question, Symonds was under pressure to perform and for a while looked as if he’d single-handedly take Australia to the target. Symonds was immediately in flow, hitting a number of boundaries in his short stay. He couldn’t sustain the onslaught though, and was dismissed by Kallis for a quickfire 29 off 26 balls.

The wicket of Symonds sparked a collapse in the Australian innings. The next man in, Adam Gilchrist, was gone first ball edging to Boucher. When Warne went in two overs time, Australia had all of a sudden lost their last four wickets for 39 runs, and their last three for nine.

Brett Lee was the next batsman to come, and the only batsmen left in the line-up who could be relied upon for some runs with Langer unlikely to bat again in the match. He was immediately off the mark with a cover driven four, but with only a few overs left until stumps, shut up shop for the remainder of the day. Meanwhile at the other end, Martyn had proceeded serenely to 93 while watching a procession of batsmen at the other end.

The 3rd Test is set for a tense finish after the late strikes by South Africa. Damien Martyn will be the key for Australia. He will be looking for his 13th Test century and will surely want to knock off the 44 runs required for victory quickly in the morning session. However, with the new ball due in only nine balls, South Africa will go for one last victory push with Ntini leading the attack. They will know they only have to take one wicket to get into the tail, and with Langer unlikely to bat, the South Africans are only three wickets away from victory.

South Africa 303
Ashwell Prince 93, Nicky Boje 43
Brett Lee 3-57, Stuart Clark 3-81

Australia 270
Michael Hussey 73, Brett Lee 64
Makhaya Ntini 6-100, Nicky Boje 1-10

South Africa 258
Mark Boucher 63, Herschelle Gibbs 53
Stuart Clark 4-64, Brett Lee 3-57

Australia 248-6
Damien Martyn 93*, Michael Hussey 89
Makhaya Ntini 3-60, Jacques Kallis 2-44

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