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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

South Africa face tough final day

South Africa need 314 runs on the final day of the third Test if they are to complete a clean sweep of the series after reaching 62-1 at stumps.

Australia took their overnight 33-0 to 257-4, with Matthew Hayden making 39, his highest Test score of the series.

Simon Katich scored 61 and Ricky Ponting 53 before the skipper declared.

The visitors, set 376 to win, lost makeshift opener Morne Morkel without scoring but Neil McKenzie and Hashim Amla saw play through to stumps.

South Africa will usurp their opponents at the top of the Test-match rankings if they can clinch victory on what should be a fascinating final day in Sydney.

Australia have an inexperienced attack, while South Africa successfully chased down 414 to win the first Test in Perth.

Nonetheless, it will be a difficult assignment for the visiting team.

Skipper Graeme Smith is unlikely to bat again after injuring his hand in the first innings of the third Test.

And the pitch at the Sydney Cricket Ground is showing signs of wear, while Australia's 288-2 against the Proteas in the 2005-06 season is the highest fourth innings total to win a Test at the ground.

Australia started the fourth day in aggressive fashion, with Hayden advancing down the track to drive through the on-side.

The out-of-form opener eventually fell to Morne Morkel, inside edging a drive on to his stumps.

The Queenslander, whose place has come under increasing scrutiny during a frustrating summer, was given a rousing reception as he walked off the ground.

Ponting, who almost chopped the ball on to his stumps with the first delivery he faced, was in brilliant form, striking nine fours as he compiled his 53 off just 57 balls.

But just as the skipper looked set to really cut loose as the home team pushed for a declaration total, he too fell to an inside edge as he attempted to cut a delivery from Morkel.

Dale Steyn accounted for Katich lbw with only Mark Boucher appearing to appeal for the decision, while Michael Clarke hit an aggressive 41 off 55 balls in a partnership of 76 with Michael Hussey.

Clarke was nonchalantly caught in the deep by Amla off the bowling of Paul Harris - and his dismissal brought about the declaration, leaving South Africa with their target of 376 from a minimum of 116 overs.

The Proteas sprung a surprise by opening with Morkel, who lamely chipped a delivery to Mitchell Johnson at mid-on to hand Doug Bollinger his first wicket at Test level.

Amla survived a scare when wicketkeeper Brad Haddin was unable to take a difficult chance wide to his right.

And Amla had to take evasive action when a delivery from medium pacer Andrew McDonald hit a crack and climbed alarmingly.

The batsman showed superb nerve and composure to drive the next delivery to the boundary.

And Neil McKenzie and Amla saw play through to the close to set up an intriguing final day.

South Africa coach Mickey Arthur said that his team have not given up on the possibility of snatching a dramatic last-day win.

"I think all three results are still possible and that's got to be good," said Arthur.

"We're still going to play it hour by hour. If we can get ourselves to tea then (we'll) have a look.

"If we are unscathed at tea time then we'll be ready to launch a proper assault.

"There is a dressing room full of guys that don't want to give an inch. The guys have given their all and have been absolutely amazing for 14 days and none of us want to end up losing the last Test match."

Smith is unlikely to bat after breaking his hand in the first innings but he could feature at a later stage in the day if he is required.

"If there is one over or two overs to see out to draw or one or two required to win, I think we're going to need a chain to chain him down in the dressing room," added Arthur.

"I'm not taking the possibility of Smith batting totally out of the equation but it is very, very and highly, highly unlikely."

Australia batsman Hussey said his team would need a strong collective effort to push for victory on the final day.

"It's going to take all of us, like it did in the first innings," Hussey.

"It's going to take a good hard grind of all the bowlers bowling well in partnerships, being patient, being disciplined - the things that we always talk about in our meetings.

"And hopefully a few tricks from the pitch would be nice as well to get us a couple of wickets."

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