Dale Steyn breathed some fire to hurt the Australian tail but Michael Clarke was able to drag the team towards a satisfying first-innings total of 394.
Peter English writes for Cricinfo that Clarke’s 88 not out delayed the South African push until the lunch break came when Peter Siddle finally exited after an important last-wicket stand of 42.
Steyn arrived in Australia with a reputation for high-quality speed and after a quiet game in Perth – by his 2008 standards – he has clicked over the first two days of this crucial contest. The haul of 5 for 87 kept the pressure on the hosts and took his tally for the year to 69 victims at 20.49.
Having collected Simon Katich and Michael Hussey on Boxing Day, he followed up by removing Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson in the same over before finishing with Nathan Hauritz. However, South Africa could not secure a quick end to the innings and were held up by Clarke as he marshalled the tail, which combined for 114 in the first session.
Clarke and Lee resumed at a delicate 6 for 280 but spread 45 at more than a run a ball, with the two senior men showing Australia would not be backing down. After crawling throughout the latter stages of the first day, Clarke almost turned his overnight 36 into a century, swinging his bat powerfully and effectively.
On Boxing Day he did the building, but before lunch he was decorating with pulls, fierce cuts and smart use of the tailenders. He stayed for 208 balls and collected only four fours and a top-edged six from Makhaya Ntini, preferring to find the gaps and run hard.
Lee left with 21 when he edged Steyn to Jacques Kallis at second slip while Johnson played-on third ball with the bowler coming around the wicket, a tactic which also worked for Matthew Hayden, Katich and Hussey on the opening day. Hauritz’s nick went to Graeme Smith at first slip, but the captain was unsure about the low take and the umpires referred the decision, which confirmed the batsman’s departure for 12.
Siddle continued to expand the target with Clarke and registered 19 before edging Kallis to AB de Villiers. Ntini was expensive in his opening spell and was unable to add to his two wickets on day one, while Kallis, Paul Harris and Morne Morkel had one victim each.Tweet