Ponting’s declaration sets up an intriguing finish in Sydney

January 6th, 2009 - 6:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Jan 6 (IANS) Australian captain Ricky Ponting set-up an exciting finale to an engrossing series against South Africa with a sporting declaration that left the visitors score 314 runs on the fifth day of the third and final Test to snatch their world number one ranking.Australia declared their second innings at 257 for four, asking South Africa to score 376 runs in nearly four sessions on a deteriorating surface.

At stumps South Africa were 62 for one with stand-in skipper Neil Mckenzie (25) and Hashim Amla (30) at the crease.

The target, though, achievable would be difficult for the visitors without their courageous skipper Graeme Smith who is out of the Test with a fractured hand. The Proteas lead the series 2-0.

The highest successful fourth-inning run chase at the Sydney Cricket Ground is 288 for two by Australia against South Africa three years ago.

However, South Africa could draw inspiration from their famous Perth win where they successfully chased down 414 to record the second highest target in the history of Test cricket.

If that happens, then Ponting, who is already facing the flak for being unimaginative as captain, will have to bear the burnt of a shattering 0-3 loss at home, the first whitewash for Australia in 122 years.

A win, however, would help Australia save their No.1 spot in Tests at least till their forthcoming tour of South Africa and Ponting his skin.

Australia dictated the course of this Test so far, but they would be wary of South Africa, who in the last two matches came from behind to win.

Resuming the day at 33 for no loss, Australia rode on half-centuries from Simon Katich (61) and Ponting (53) to set the base for an early declaration.

Michael Hussey (45 not out) and Michael Clarke (41) hurried the declaration after tea with a brisk 76-run stand.

South Africa started the chase with Mckenzie coming out with Morne Morkel in the absence of Smith. The fast bowler, who had contributed a valuable 40 in the first innings, was dismissed in the second over, being debutant Doug Bollinger’s first Test wicket.

The odd delivery was keeping low on the difficult pitch, but it was not all that unplayable. Amla and Mckenzie played out the remaining overs with ease.

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