Australia favourites to avoid whitewash

 

CRICKET THIRD TEST: SOUTH AFRICA coach Mickey Arthur has refused to rule out the possibility of his team launching a late bid to win the third Test and clinch a series clean sweep against Australia in Sydney.

Having been set 376 to win from a minimum of 116 overs, the Proteas closed day four on 62 for one.

The tourists require a further 314 to win with nine wickets remaining, although that is effectively eight unless captain Graeme Smith changes his mind and opts to bat despite injuries to his left hand and elbow.

It is a tall order for South Africa - although they did chase down 414 to win the first Test in Perth - but Arthur says they will have a go.

"If we can get ourselves to tea (today), then (we'll) have a look. If we are unscathed at tea-time then we'll be ready to launch a proper assault," Arthur said.

"There is a dressingroom 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.

"We went through that in England this year where we played fantastically well and went 2-0 up and lost the last Test match in a dead rubber. It took the gloss of our Test victories a little bit, so we learnt the hard way there.

"There will be guys battling really hard to make sure it's either 2-0 or 3-0 and not 2-1."

Stand-in skipper Neil McKenzie (25) and Hashim Amla (30) will resume the fight for a history-making last-day win and a series clean sweep with at least 90 overs to be bowled.

Past run-chases at the SCG suggest victory will elude the Proteas on a wearing wicket.

Australia's fourth-innings total of 288 for two in the 2005/06 season against South Africa is the highest winning total in a Sydney Test.

After Australia declared their seconds innings at 257 for four, Doug Bollinger (one for 11) made the early breakthrough, picking up his first Test wicket after makeshift opener Morne Morkel (0) chipped a catch to Mitchell Johnson at mid on.

Amla survived a close call on five, edging Peter Siddle past a diving Brad Haddin.

Ricky Ponting closed his side's innings after Michael Clarke (41) was caught in the deep going after quick runs. Michael Hussey remained not out on 45.

Australia resumed on day four on 33 without loss, with Matthew Hayden and Simon Katich at the crease.

Hayden (39) dragged Morkel (two for 38) on to his stumps after working hard in an attempt to build his first substantial score of the summer. He belted seven fours in a 63-ball stay that produced just as much sweat as substance.

The 37-year-old was given a rousing send-off by the SCG crowd.

Ponting (53) almost collected a king pair after leaving the first ball he faced, only for it to catch the inside edge of his bat, narrowly missing the stumps and going to the boundary for four.

The Australian skipper's innings then flourished as he raced to a half-century at almost a run a ball. It came as a surprise when he played on to Morkel attempting a cut shot.

There was also plenty of surprise when Katich (61) was given out lbw to Dale Steyn (one for 60), with only wicketkeeper Mark Boucher interested in an appeal.