DURBAN // South Africa recovered from early strikes by the fast bowler Peter Siddle to reach 244-2 at stumps on day four of the second Test against Australia yesterday. Set an improbable 546 to win and level the three-match series, the South Africa openers Hashim Amla (43) and Neil McKenzie (31) set about making inroads into the target before Siddle stopped them in their tracks.
He had McKenzie caught by the wicketkeeper Brad Haddin in the second over of his third spell and Amla caught by Ricky Ponting at second slip in the fifth over of his spell as Australia threatened to tear through the top order. But Jacques Kallis (84 not out) and AB de Villiers (68 not out) settled the hosts' nerves as they added 164 for the third wicket in a stand that featured some counter-attacking stroke play.
All-rounder Kallis - South Africa's key batsman with the captain Graeme Smith unlikely to bat due to a fractured finger - was dropped first ball by Marcus North at slip off Siddle as he prodded at a delivery outside off stump. De Villiers started brightly and Kallis found his timing towards the end of the session with some sumptuous pull shots. Australia had resumed the day on 292-3 and batted on for 35 minutes before declaring on 331-5, leaving them with a massive lead of 545 runs. Opener Phillip Hughes, who has hit back-to-back centuries in this Test, cashed in as he added another 24 runs in 20 balls.
He belted Makhaya Ntini's first ball of the day through extra cover for four and was soon smashing Dale Steyn back over his head for six to raise his 150 after six hours and 312 deliveries at the crease. The left-hander stepped away and slashed once too often, though, slicing a catch to third man off Ntini to be dismissed for 160 in the day's seventh over. De Villiers then took a nonchalant one-handed catch at second slip to dismiss North for a duck off Steyn. Michael Clarke was not out on 23 when the innings was declared.
Hughes later said that scoring twin centuries in just his second Test was an unforgettable experience. "It's something I'll never forget, a very special moment," he said. The youngster, however, found it tough to reach three figures. "Every day is different and today I had to grind it out, tough it out. I was determined not to give it away after I got a start," he said. Hughes, just 20, said he employed a change in approach in comparison to the first innings, when he blazed 115 off 151 balls.
"I thought [the South Africa spinner] Paul Harris bowled beautifully into the rough. A few balls were spitting and going everywhere, so I had to be very patient and just sit on him. It was a great contest." * Reuters