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Proteas set up an intriguing chase

South Africa's pursuit of an unlikely record 454 runs began well on the fourth day against Australia, with the hosts reaching 178-2.

JOHANNESBURG // South Africa's pursuit of an unlikely record 454 runs began well on the fourth day against Australia, with the hosts reaching 178-2. The captain Graeme Smith left after making 69 but an unbeaten 47-run stand between Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis ensured the Proteas were on target for an intriguing battle today.

The hosts required another 276 runs in a record run-chase which was made possible after Kallis had taken three wickets and a stunning catch to help dismiss the tourists for 207 in their second innings. The Proteas openers were largely untroubled in their pursuit, with the only real scare coming in the first over when Mitchell Johnson struck the home captain with a seaming delivery on the pads and his opposite number Ricky Ponting decided to refer the decision after the umpire Billy Bowden gave not out.

It proved the right call with replays clearly showing the ball making contact outside the line of the off-stump and the two batsmen went on to bat fluently to give their side real hope. Earlier, an inspired spell of bowling from Kallis helped South Africa claim the wickets of Ponting (25), Michael Hussey (zero) and Marcus North (five) in a five-over burst that went for 22. Makhaya Ntini and Paul Harris also contributed to the cause with three and two wickets each.

Phillip Hughes, who is playing in his first match, made a rather fortunate 75, but watched as his country slipped from being 99-1 at one stage, to losing eight wickets for 75 runs by the time the extended morning session had ended. Hughes survived when he gloved a Morne Morkel delivery to Mark Boucher for 21 late on Saturday but no one, including umpire Bowden, spotted the edge. He received another let-off when a similar incident happened yesterday while he was on 36.

However, he rode his luck and went on to bring up his 50 in 85 balls when he punched Morkel for four through mid-off, before completing a half-century stand with Ponting as Australia looked the only side in the game. But Kallis was then brought into the attack for the first time and his introduction proved a masterstroke move by Smith as he struck twice in as many balls. The all-rounder tempted Ponting into pulling a shorter, slower delivery to Hashim Amla at deep square-leg.

He followed that up with another short ball to Hussey, who could only top edge after he tried to pull the ball away and was snapped up by Ntini at short square-leg. Kallis then pulled off a stunning catch two deliveries later when he took a sharp one-handed chance at first slip to send Michael Clarke on his way for a second ball duck off Harris. First innings centurion North survived the hat-trick but was cleaned up on the fifth ball of the over.

Another superb catch ended Hughes' brave 123-ball stay, with AB de Villiers this time taking a one-handed chance inches above the ground with his left hand at leg slip, after the opener tried to steer the ball down. * PA Sport

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