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Page last updated at 07:06 GMT, Saturday, 3 January 2009

SA edge tight first day in Sydney

Third Test, Sydney (day one, stumps):
Australia 267-6 v South Africa

Dale Steyn
Steyn made a key breakthrough by bowling Haddin late on

South Africa made a confident start to the third and final Test in Sydney as they look to replace Australia as the leading Test-playing nation.

Dale Steyn took the crucial late wicket of Brad Haddin (38) to end a 75-run partnership with Michael Clarke.

Vice-captain Clarke was 73 not out at the close, having been dropped twice, as Australia reached 267-6.

South Africa lead the series 2-0 and are hoping to inflict Australia's first home whitewash in 122 years.

They named an unchanged side, while Australia gave debuts to all-rounder Andrew McDonald and pace bowler Doug Bollinger, the latter given his first chance on his home ground.

But the focus was on opener Matthew Hayden at the start of play after home skipper Ricky Ponting won the toss and chose to bat first.

Hayden has been in a wretched run of form and, prior to the squad being announced, there were calls in the Australian media for the 37-year-old to be dropped.

He reined in his attacking instincts and was outscored by partner Simon Katich as they put on 62 for the first wicket.


But Australia then suffered a double blow as Katich was caught at second slip off Jacques Kallis and Ponting departed first ball in the next over as Morne Morkel found the inside edge of his bat and keeper Mark Boucher did the rest.

Hayden's watchful innings came to an end after lunch when he attempted to drive a wide ball from fast bowler Dale Steyn and only succeeded in dragging the ball into his stumps.

His exit for 31 left Australia on 109-3 and put the onus on Michael Hussey, who has also been short of runs in recent matches, and Clarke to rebuild the innings.

The spin of Paul Harris accounted for Hussey, however, when he pushed forward defensively and was caught at slip by Kallis for 30.

New boy McDonald was greeted by a rising delivery from Morkel which struck him on the body, edged just short of the slip cordon two balls later and shortly afterwards had his helmet knocked off by a bouncer from the tall paceman.

Clarke, meanwhile, had his first escape on 12 when Makhaya Ntini put down a difficult chance as he moved to his right at mid-off, with Harris the unlucky bowler.

But Ntini atoned with the wicket of McDonald, who paid the price for poor foot movement as an attempted drive resulted in a catch to Boucher, leaving Australia on 162-5.

Clarke and Haddin gradually lifted the tension among home supporters - with Clarke reaching his half century off 15 balls and Haddin hitting a four and six off successive balls from Harris.

The pair were eventually separated when Steyn, armed with the second new ball, produced a near unplayable delivery which hit the top of Haddin's off stump.

But Clarke survived when Hashim Amla put down a straightforward chance at short mid-wicket off Ntini and Mitchell Johnson kept him company to stumps with an unbeaten 17.

"I thought we came out on top," said South Africa's assistant coach, Vinnie Barnes.

"It would have been nice to have had Australia 240-7 rather than 260-6 but now we must concentrate on wrapping up the tail in the morning.

"If we can get them out for 300, it will be a real bonus but we must be realistic and we will settle for 350.

"If we can get ahead on the first innings, then we can put Australia under real pressure."

• Cricket Australia chairman Jack Clarke has defended Ponting and chief selector Andrew Hilditch following criticism in the wake of the team's nine-wicket defeat in the second Test in Melbourne.

"At times like this when Australian cricket is challenged, Ricky and his team, and Andrew and his selectors, have the support of Cricket Australia.

"They now have a chance to leave their most important legacy in managing the current transition from the great team of the last 15 years to rebuilding the dynasty. They deserve, and have earned, our respect," he said.

The world's three leading news agencies are not covering the series due to a dispute with Cricket Australia.

Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Associated Press have suspended all coverage of the 2008-09 season.

Their photographers and reporters did not supply material from within the ground. As a result, we cannot use pictures from the current match.

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see also
Smith ruled out of S Africa ODIs
01 Jan 09 |  South Africa
Smith savours 'greatest moment'
30 Dec 08 |  Cricket
Aussies lick their wounds
30 Dec 08 |  Cricket
Lee & Symonds to miss final Test
30 Dec 08 |  Australia
S Africa run chase stuns Aussies
21 Dec 08 |  Cricket

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