DURBAN // The rookie Australian opener Phillip Hughes's maiden century helped guide his team to 218 for two at tea on the first day of the second Test against South Africa today. Hughes, playing just his second Test, scored freely from the outset after Australia had won the toss and elected to bat, racing to 75 not out off just 90 balls by lunch. The 20-year-old took another half-hour to get into the 90s and then struck the left-arm spinner Paul Harris for successive sixes to dash to his hundred in 158 minutes off 132 deliveries.
Hughes was dismissed another half-hour later, prompting a mini-revival for the South Africans. The left-hander had reached 115 when he cut Jacques Kallis to Neil McKenzie in the gully to end a 184-run opening stand with Simon Katich. Both openers had just survived chances, Hashim Amla missing Katich on 55 at midwicket off Dale Steyn and Kallis dropping a catch at first slip off Morne Morkel when Hughes had 114.
South Africa's afternoon improved further when they claimed the key wicket of Ricky Ponting for just nine runs. The Australian captain tried to attack spinner Harris but skied the ball over wide mid-off, with McKenzie taking another well-judged catch. Katich continued to stamp his mark on proceedings as he reached 84 not out at tea, showing sound shot selection and rarely being beaten by any delivery.
Michael Hussey was with him but was yet to get off the mark, looking to end a run of poor form that has seen him score just 89 runs in his last eight innings. Australia had breezed to 119 without loss at lunch as Hughes, who scored 75 in the second innings of his debut Test in Johannesburg last week, once again scored heavily through the off-side. Fellow left-hander Katich started his innings more sedately, but accelerated later on.
South Africa's pacemen were unable to maintain any consistent line or length before lunch and captain Graeme Smith changed to spin after just 80 minutes, Harris bowling the 19th over. *Reuters