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North slams ton on debut

DEBUTANT Marcus North hit a powerful 117 in the first test against South Africa yesterday to help guide Australia to an imposing 466 all out at tea in its first innings on the second day of the match.

Australia, seeking to rebound from a 1-2 series defeat against the Proteas at home in December and January, showed admirable composure after stumbling to 38-3 at one stage on the first day.

North and No. 9 batsman Mitchell Johnson, who thrashed 96 not out off 131 balls including 10 fours and five sixes, added 117 for the eighth wicket. The stand demoralized the hosts who had taken two wickets in the first five overs after taking the second new ball. The Australia duo had taken the total to 413 when North, who hit a dozen fours, was beaten by spinner Paul Harris and stumped by Mark Boucher.

But there was more punishment to come for South Africa. Johnson, who had also proved a difficult batsman to dismiss in Australia, threw his bat at everything once North was out. He clubbed Harris for 26 runs - three sixes and two fours - in an over to move into the 80s, and took three fours off a Dale Steyn over to get into the 90s.

However, he fell four runs short of a maiden test century as he watched partners Peter Siddle (nine) and Ben Hilfenhaus (0) caught in the slips off successive balls from Morne Morkel to bring the innings to a close. Siddle had also been caught off a no-ball one delivery earlier.

Australia was firmly in control after the first two sessions yesterday, after ending the first day with a score of 254-5. South Africa struck twice in six balls with the second new ball earlier yesterday, but their attack battled to dismiss the Australian tail.

Fast bowler Makhaya Ntini took his second wicket of the match in the fourth over with the new ball, when wicketkeeper Brad Haddin pulled a delivery from wide outside off-stump to Harris at mid-on. That careless shot brought to an end the valuable sixth-wicket partnership of 113 runs between Haddin (63) and North.

Five balls later, Andrew McDonald (0) edged Dale Steyn to second slip, and with the score on 296-7 the new ball seemed to have given the Proteas a chance to keep the Australian first-innings score below 350.


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