Hodge helps put Australia in control


CRICKET / Australia v South Africa: Brad Hodge said he was expecting an anxious night's sleep last night after finishing the third day of the opening Test against South Africa stranded on 91.

The Victorian middle-order batsman shared an unbroken fifth-wicket partnership of 126 with Mike Hussey (54 not out) to put Australia in control but said he was nervous about the prospect of a maiden Test century.

"Being in the 90s for the first time in Test cricket is always an anxious time for a batsman," he told a news conference.

"I was hoping I would get it today because sleeping overnight might be a bit difficult but I'd rather be sitting here 91 not out than be out."

Australia ended the third day at the WACA on 310 for four in their second innings, 272 runs in front, and with momentum back on their side after poor fielding and bad luck conspired against the tourists.

Hodge and Hussey survived dropped catches while Ricky Ponting got the benefit of two dubious umpiring decisions in his 53. The South Africans were left to rue their misfortune but coach Mickey Arthur said all was not lost yet.

"Obviously we're a little disappointed that a couple of chances went down but I'm very proud of the lads, I thought we fought very well today," he said. "We can still do it, the wicket's still very good and I'm positive."

Jacques Rudolph did hold a leaping one-handed catch off Ponting when the Australian captain was on four but his joy was shortlived when West Indian umpire Billy Doctrove called Charl Langeveldt for a no ball when television replays suggested the delivery was legitimate.

"Obviously the guys were a little bit annoyed but I was very proud of their reaction," Arthur said.

"Apparently the umpires apologised to (South Africa captain) Graeme (Smith) out in the middle once they had seen it on the screen and we accepted it."

The Australians struggled to score freely for most of a scorching hot day but finally got on top of the visitors in the extended last session and Hodge said they were now in a strong position to win.

"It was really hard but that's what Test cricket is about - two sides fighting it out," he said.

"It was just a matter of time and being patient and working hard and grinding the bowlers down.

"It was obviously a warm day so the longer it went on the easier it was going to be for batting. I've helped my side get into a good position and hopefully we can continue tomorrow."

Injured batsman Jacques Kallis will be fit to play in the second Test, Arthur said yesterday.

Kallis was forced to skip the opening Test after aggravating an elbow injury in training but will play in the second Test, starting in Melbourne on December 26.

"He'll definitely be fine for Melbourne," Arthur said.

"He had a little bit of a hit today, just with a plastic bat, just to get the motions going. He came through that okay so I think tomorrow we'll probably get him back in the nets and he'll be fine."

Test match Scoreboard


AUSTRALIA: First innings 258 (R. Ponting 71; M. Ntini 5-64); SOUTH AFRICA: First innings 296 (A. de Villiers 68, M. Boucher 62; B. Lee 5-93).

AUSTRALIA: Second innings: (Overnight: 38-1)

J. Langer b Pollock 47

M. Hayden c Boucher b Langeveldt 20

B. Lee lbw b Langeveldt 32

R. Ponting c Boucher b Ntini 53

B. Hodge not out 91

M. Hussey not out 54

Extras (lb-2 nb-10 w-1) 13

Total (for 4 wickets, 99 overs) 310

Fall of wickets: 1-37, 2-86, 3-129, 4-184.

To bat: A. Symonds, A. Gilchrist, S. Warne, N. Bracken, G. McGrath.

Bowling: S. Pollock 26-6-60-1 (nb-4); M. Ntini 23-6-81-1; C. Langeveldt 21-2-71-2 (nb-5); A. Nel 21-2-67-0 (w-1); J. Rudolph 5-1-20 -0; J. Kemp 3-0-9-0 (nb-1).