x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Australia on top in Melbourne

Peter Siddle and Nathan Hauritz wreck South Africa's middle order to put Australia on top in the second Test at the MCG.

MELBOURNE // Peter Siddle and Nathan Hauritz, Australia's two least experienced bowlers, justified the selectors' faith in them when they wrecked South Africa's middle order to turn the second Test at the MCG on its head. The Proteas will begin the third day on 198-7, still trailing by 196. The Australians will be buoyed after an excellent day in which their tail, guided by an unbeaten 88 from Michael Clarke, again wagged to allow the home side to reach 394, and their bowlers turned in their best showing for many months. After a torrid week in which Australia's attack was pilloried for lacking venom, Ricky Ponting's bowlers, with the exception of Brett Lee, gave their critics a liberal serving of humble pie. Leading the charge was not Lee, who regained his express pace but still fired blanks, but a pair of third-gamers in Siddle and Hauritz. Hauritz claimed two wickets, including the prized scalp of Jacques Kallis, while Siddle removed the hapless Neil McKenzie and the Perth centurions Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers in two high-class spells of pace bowling. Siddle, who many considered lucky to keep his place in the side after lean pickings in Perth, bowled with fire and control, finishing the day with figures of 3-24.

In what proved an inspired move by Ponting, Siddle was thrown the new ball by his captain in preference to Mitchell Johnson - Australia's best bowler in the first Test. Encouraged by 42,814 fellow Victorians whose enthusiasm hit fever pitch later in the day, Siddle broke through in his opening over, bowling McKenzie after softening him up with several balls which fizzed off a good length. But it was his second stint which roused his home crowd into a lather. Relieving Johnson, who had removed Hashim Amla with the new ball for 19, Siddle delivered what could well be remembered as his coming-of-age spell. He induced Smith, then the cornerstone of South Africa's innings, into driving at a wide one and had the Proteas captain caught behind for 62 before bowling De Villiers with a ball that beat him for pace. The spinner Hauritz, in contrast, relied on dip and subtle variation for his wickets. Picked ahead of Jason Krejza for his ability to bowl defensively, Hauritz's was miserly and successful. He had Kallis tied down and was rewarded when the South Africa veteran played a false sweep shot and was caught behind with the final ball prior to tea. Boucher was his second victim when he was beaten in the air and swept Hauritz straight to Michael Hussey at square leg. Johnson, too, came to the party. He ended Amla's innings with his first over of the game then, after Lee again had no impact in the final session, bowled Morne Morkel for 21.

The only negative for the Australians was the continued poor form of Lee. Lee, Australia's senior paceman, failed to regularly trouble the Proteas, conceding 68 runs from 13 wicketless overs. His opening spell of four overs cost 27 runs and he was equally as unproductive later in the day against the tail. It was in contrast to the performance of Dale Steyn - the man who looks set to take his place in world cricket. Steyn grabbed 5-94 to be the only positive on a dismal day for the tourists. *PA Sport