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Australia rallies after early shocks

AUSTRALIA recovered some composure in the second session on the first day of the first test against South Africa yesterday, improving to 194 for five after coming under severe pressure at the start.

Captain Ricky Ponting opted to bat first and led the Australian revival, adding 113 at more than four runs per over with vice-captain Michael Clarke (68) for the fourth wicket.

Ponting was lucky to survive when he was dropped on 40 by Proteas captain Graeme Smith shortly before lunch and was eventually out to a peach of a ball from Makhaya Ntini on 83, with the score on 151. He did not offer a shot to the swinging delivery which cut back off the pitch and brushed his pads before crashing into the stumps in Johannesburg.

Unfortunately for the touring side, Clarke was out to an extravagant drive off Dale Steyn moments before tea. Clarke's departure, caught behind after hitting 10 fours, took some of the shine off a decent showing in the second session of the day.

Ponting hit 11 fours and a six, and although his stroke-play was up to his high standard, the South Africa attack often managed to put him and Clarke under pressure.

Fast bowler Steyn had rocked Australia in the first hour, dismissing debutante opening batsman Phillip Hughes with the fourth ball of the match and taking two wickets for five runs in a fiery opening spell. At tea Steyn's figures were 3-60.

Hughes, who is stepping into the shoes of the retired Matthew Hayden as opening batsman, faced the first ball of the match from Steyn, but was back in the pavilion for a duck three deliveries later. Hughes's downfall came when he played an ungainly attempted cut shot off a ball which he could easily have left alone, and got a bottom edge to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher.

Hughes' fellow opener Simon Katich hung around for 42 minutes in making three runs, and fell to a superb, diving one-handed catch by Neil McKenzie off Steyn.

A short time later Australia was in a spot of bother on 38-3 when Michael Hussey (four) was well held by Jacques Kallis at second slip, to give Morne Morkel his 50th test wicket.


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