Clarke rescues Australia after top-order collapse

January 3rd, 2009 - 7:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Jan 3 (IANS) Michael Clarke shouldered Australia to 267 for six after skipper Ricky Ponting got out to a golden duck and opener Matthew Hayden struggled yet again to come to terms with his batting on day one of the third and last cricket Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground here Saturday. Clarke was still out there at stumps with a meticulous 73 after the South African pace battery had reduced the hosts to 162 for five.

Clarke and wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddin (38) then stitched together 75 runs to prevent South Africa from going for the kill. Mitchell Johnson (17) will go out to resume the inning with Clarke on the second day Sunday.

Having already taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, South Africa looked determined for a rare whitewash against Australia and a top spot in Test rankings as they took the field after Ponting won his third straight toss.

The hostile pace attack, led by fiery Dale Steyn (2-71), kept the brittle Australian top-order on a tight leash, giving away nothing on a batsman-friendly wicket.

Hayden (31), under pressure to keep his place in the side, batted through the first session, but never looked like getting on top of the bowling. His sledge-hammer strokes have deserted him of late.

Simon Katich, in contrast, looked fluent and attacked the new ball bowlers with flair, racing to 47 off 52 balls. His five sweetly-timed boundaries promised much more from the left-hander but his innings came to an abrupt end as he jabbed at a sharp delivery from Jacques Kallis and the resultant edge went straight to AB de Villiers in the slips.

Ponting, who played a lone hand in a vain attempt to stop the South African from clinching the series in Melbourne, was out inside-edging Morne Morkel to Mark Boucher.

Hayden and Michael Hussey (30) tried to stem the downslide with the latter scoring the bulk of the 46 runs scored during the partnership.

Steyn bowled leaden-footed Hayden, who dragged the ball onto the stumps while going for an expansive drive. His 31 off 78 balls had four fours, mostly driven down the V.

Hussey then offered a simple catch to Kallis at slip off left-arm spinner Paul Harris as Australia slumped to 130 for four.

Debutant Andrew McDonald faced a torrid spell taking some blows on his body. A nasty Morne Morkel bouncer knocked down his helmet, but the Victorian battled it out for 54 balls before nicking an angled Makhaya Nitni delivery behind.

Brad Haddin (38) then joined Clarke and the two attacked the bowlers to break the shackles.

Haddin was particularly aggressive against Harris and dispatched him to the onside for two fours and a six. Clarke got a life when Ntini failed to pluck the ball at mid-off. The vice-captain stepped out often to drive the ball through the covers and hit nine boundaries.

But Steyn got his second wicket as he bowled Haddin. In came a resolute Mitchell Johnson and added 30 runs with Clarke for the unfinished seventh-wicket stand.

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