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It had to happen: Ponting puts Australia in with a shot

November 21, 2011

Ricky Ponting and Usman Khawaja have put Australian in with a shot of achieving a what seemed an unlikely victory, with Australia needing 168 runs with 7 wickets in hand on the final day of the second test.

However, the day began with it seeming like permanent deja vu. Pat Cummins was looking sharp and dangerous, while Mitchell Johnson continued to look lacklustre as it seemed that Amla and De Villiers would, like yesterday, continue to pile on the runs. However, Cummins broke up the party as he suckered De Villiers into a drive he should not have made and the ball flew to Clarke at second slip.

The early breakthrough seemed to put a much need spring in the Australian teams step but Amla stubbornly wouldn’t give anything away and he got his well deserved century with a boundary off Siddle.

However, the jubilation was soon cut short, as Amla set off for a quick single that wasn’t there, with new batsmen Ashton Prince being  caught stranded and run out for two.

That  momentum was beginning to shift back to Australia was confirmed when Johnson cut the ball back into Amla, who caught the edge with Haddin catching a sharp edge.  Amla was out for 105 and South Africa was now 6 for 260.

Just after drinks,  the mini collapse continued  as Nathan Lyon was brought into the attack and immediately found success.  Boucher sought to cover drive a full delivery outside off and only succeeded in getting an edge of the bottom bat  with the ball flying  straight to Shane Watson at first slip.

However, the tide began to turn again with Steyn and Philander putting on a very useful partnership. Undoubtably, they were both boosted by the fact that it took Clarke 16 overs to choose to take the second new ball, instead choosing to continue to bowl Lyon and even bowling Hussey.

Clarke also dropped Steyn on 16 with a chance just above his head.  It seemed like the window in  which Australia was re-establishing themselves in the match was beginning to slip with every run  that the tail scored, as Steyn and Philander made it through to lunch with the score at 7 for 314.

Cummins again, though, was the man to turn things around and that he did in spectacular fashion. The first ball after lunch he bowled a thunderous bouncer, which hit Philander’s thumb as it went through Haddin. Morne Morkel came out expecting another short ball but Cummins delivered a unstobbable yorker to clean bowl him for a golden duck. He delivered nother cracking yorker on his hat trick ball but Imran Tahrir just dug it out.

Dale Steyn then went on the attack  smashing two sixes in two overs. Even Tahrir got into the attacking with a lofted slog for four. The fun couldn’t continue, with Steyn seeking to hit another six, he got a bottom edge nick off Cummins through to Haddin for 41.  Cummins ended up with the oustanding figures of 6 for 79 on debut.

South Africa were all out for 339, leaving Australia with a ground record chase of 310 to win.

The signs looked omnious when Shane Watson left the second ball off the innings  and it proceeded  straight into his off stump. Australia sought to attack but Phillip Hughes only succeeded in nicking it to Kallis at second slip to be out for 11. Ricky Ponting then made his way to the crease under immense pressure, knowing his future was on the line.

It seemed to bring out the best in him, who began using his infamous pull shot at every available chance as he and Usman Khawaja pushed the score up to 2 for 64 at tea.

It was a similar story after the break up with both Ponting and Khawaja playing patient, measured innings, with Khawaja bringing up his maiden half-century in test cricket.

However, when South Africa began to look rattled, leg spinner Imran Tahrir, who had troubled Khawaja since he came on, produced a lovely googly that took the edge and saw Khawaja gone for 65.

Just one ball later, anti-climatically, umpires called off play due to bad light again. The test match remains delicately poised with Australia on 3 for 142. Ponting is not out on 50 with Clarke on 1.  The final day will be compelling viewing for anyone at all interested in cricket

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