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The first test between Australia and South Africa at the Gabba appeared to be heading towards an exciting conclusion with the world no.1 Proteas side looking good in their attempt to force a result. South Africa, handicapped by the loss of JP Duminy due to a freak training injury, posted a competitive first innings score of 450 on the back of centuries from Jacques Kallis (147) and Hashim Amla (104). However, the afternoon did belong to the Aussie bowlers as they picked up 5 wickets for 76 runs after lunch. Australia had 25 overs to survive late in the day, and were in trouble at 40-3 in the 10th overs before battling to 111 without the loss of any additional wickets to end the day 339 runs behind.
After having lost the entire second day's play due to a torrential downpour, it was no surprise that South Africa's overnight duo of Amla and Kallis took some time to get their eye in again. Amla won the race to get to his century first, taking 227 balls to reach the landmark. He fell shortly after though, given out leg before off James Pattinson, though replays indicated that the decision would have been overturned on appeal, with Hawkeye indicating that the ball would have gone over the stumps. After consulting with Kallis though, Amla chose not to ask for a review, and Australia had landed a crucial early blow.
AB de Villiers came out to replace Amla, and was in the thick of the action right away, striking the first ball he faced to the boundary. Kallis at the other end was on 99 when De Villiers joined him, and brought up his 44th Test century in the very next over. After having raced to his 50 in just 63 balls, the veteran allrounder had knuckled down and played a more traditional hand, getting to his ton in 168 deliveries.
The Proteas were cautious in the stroke play in the first session, and reached a comfortable 357-3 at lunch.
De Villiers and Kallis added another 17 runs after the break before both fell in quick succession, Pattinson getting Kallis caught at gully, before removing De Villiers in his next over for 40, caught at point.
The Proteas lower middle order chipped in with some handy runs, everyone getting into double figures with the exception of last man Morne Morkel (0). The wickets were shared around with Nathan Lyon, Petter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus getting two each, while Pattinson remained the pick of the bowlers taking the 3 big ones in the middle order.
Australia had 25 overs to face survive on Day 3, and their batsmen came out playing their shots, but perished to the pace of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. David Warner fell for 4 caught at second slip off Dale Steyn, poking at a ball he should have left well alone. He was replaced by debutant Rob Quiney, who made 9 before pulling a short ball from Morne Morkel straight down the throat of fine leg. Morkel struck a second time in as many overs to remove Ricky Ponting for naught, caught in the slips off a good length ball that got a little more bounce than the former skipper expected - one of those typical Morkel dismissals due to his extra height.
Ed Cowan, who had been motoring along at the other end, continued to score at a healthy pace, ending the day unbeaten on 49. He was fortunate to survive a late Morkel burst, gloving a delivery from the tall South African to the keeper only for replays to show that the bowler had no part of his foot behind the crease. Michael Clarke gave Cowan good company, making a handy 34. Both men were rather harsh on the game's other debutant Rory Kleinveldt, who went for 27 runs in just 3 overs.
The game is enticingly poised, and a couple of wickets early for South Africa on Day 4 could put them firmly in the driver's seat. Australia meanwhile need to ensure that they bat for as long as possible, and try to put the Proteas under pressure in their second innings, especially given they are a batsman short.
South Africa: Smith (c), Petersen, Amla, Kallis, De Villiers (wk), Duminy, Rudolph, Philander, Steyn, Morkel, Kleinveldt.
Australia: Cowan, Warner, Quiney, Ponting, Clarke (c), Hussey, Wade (wk), Lyon, Siddle, Pattinson, Hilfenhaus.
South Africa 450 all out (151.4 overs, 2.96 rpo)
H Amla 104 (244) J Pattinson 3-93
J Kallis 147 (274) B Hilfenhaus 2-73
Australia 111/3 (26 overs, 4.26 rpo)
E Cowan 49* (74) M Morkel 2-25
M Clarke 34* (57) D Steyn 1-27
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