x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Australia survive Ntini onslaught

Makhaya Ntini claims three wickets as South Africa gave Australia food for thought on the opening day at the WACA.

PERTH // Makhaya Ntini claimed three wickets as South Africa gave Australia food for thought on the opening day at the WACA. The hosts overcame a terrible start to finish on 341-9 at stumps, with Simon Katich (83), Michael Clarke (62) and Andrew Symonds (57) all passing their half- centuries. But Australia will be disappointed with the way several batsmen threw their wickets away with Clarke, Symonds and Brad Haddin all giving up their wickets cheaply.

Australia would probably have been happy with the 300-plus score after crashing to 15-3 in the first six overs when Matthew Hayden fell for 12 and Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey both went for ducks. In a sensational start to the match Hayden had got off to a flyer, bludgeoning Ntini for two fours in the opening over. A third four, brilliantly punched down the ground, forced Ntini to alter his approach with immediate effect.

The fast bowler opted to go around the wicket and his shorter, angled delivery seamed away from the left-handed Hayden and got a thick edge that went straight to Proteas skipper Graeme Smith at first slip. The very next ball Ntini struck again, claiming Ponting's scalp with a fuller delivery that took a thick edge to AB de Villiers at gully after the Australian skipper mis-timed his front-foot drive.

It was just the second golden duck in Ponting's career. He also went off the first ball in Chennai during Australia's 2001 tour of India. Hussey survived Ntini's hat-trick ball, but two overs later became Dale Steyn's first wicket. Despite bowling against the wind, Steyn got the ball to angle across Hussey, taking a thick edge that De Villiers brilliantly caught at third slip, diving forward to claim it millimetres above the ground.

Katich and Clarke then combined to save what had threatened to become a sinking ship with a fourth-wicket stand of 149 as they took the score from 74-3 at lunch past the 150 mark. Katich brought up his half-century and Australia's 100 with a lofted cut for six that flew over third man. But the New South Wales man was living dangerously against Morne Morkel and was leaving his wicket vulnerable as the bowler approached before stepping into line while the ball was in mid-air.

Seeing this, Morkel kept on sending down yorkers at the Australian opener and eventually caught him with a full toss that may have just been going down leg side. Clarke, though, mistimed a drive and lobbed Paul Harris' delivery directly to Smith. Symonds and Haddin (46) looked set for the most explosive partnership of the day as the pair took to Harris and Jacques Kallis in the final session, taking singles at will.

But despite conceding 93 runs in 73 minutes as Symonds and Haddin carved up the attack, South Africa's aggressive field placements eventually paid dividends as they tempted both Symonds and Haddin into big shots over the infield. Having passed his half-century, Symonds was deceived by some movement by Harris and his leading edge was well caught in the deep by Neil McKenzie, giving the spinner his second wicket at the expense of 70 runs.

The second new ball worked effectively too, as Haddin lofted Ntini's second delivery with the new ball directly down Proteas debutant JP Duminy's throat in the deep once again. Steyn removed Brett Lee for 29 when he mistimed a drive and was also caught by Duminy. And Morkel took the second wicket he deserved off the last ball of the day bowling Mitchell Johnson for 18. It was a fair result for the Proteas as Johnson was dropped at fine-leg by Ntini and presented several other chances throughout his innings.

Jason Krejza (19) and Peter Siddle (0) were unbeaten at the close of play. * PA Sport