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Steyn bowls South Africa to the verge of historic series win


Melbourne : Dale Steyn grabbed his second five-wicket haul on the fourth day of the second cricket Test against Australia here Monday to take South Africa to the verge of an historic series win.

Chasing 183 to win, South Africa were 30 for no loss with skipper Graeme Smith on 25 and Neil McKenzie three at the close of play after Steyn’s fiver bowled out Australia for 247 in the second innings, despite a valiant skipper’s knock of 99 by Ricky Ponting.

Australia, trailing 0-1 in the series, made 394 in the first innings and South Africa replied with 459 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

Australia have not lost a series in their backyard since West Indies toppled them in 1992-93, and it seems that South Africa are now well set to dethrone the world champions.

Resuming their second innings at the overnight four for no loss, Australia lost their out-of-form opener Matthew Hayden (23) who failed yet again, making him a highly doubtful starter for the third Test in Sydney.

Hayden started in an attacking mode, scoring 23 off 28 balls. But just when he looked to be feeling comfortable, he drove Steyn to be caught by Jean Paul Duminy at short cover.

And it was Ponting’s lone hand, apart from Mitchell Johnson’s unbeaten 43, that extended the lead to 182.

While Steyn led the demolition charge, it was Ponting who tried to hold things together. He spent 40 minutes in the 90s before chipping a catch to Smith at cover off Morne Morkel.

After allowing South Africa to make a sensational comeback on the third day, Australia were off to a shocking start as the first three batsmen were back in the pavilion before erasing the 65-run deficit.

Steyn removed Hayden and Simon Katich (15) in two overs and then returned to dismiss Michael Clarke (29) and Andrew Symonds in six balls to thwart Australia’s recovery. Smith used Steyn in short spells and every time the fast bowler returned he troubled the batsmen with his raw pace and swing.

While Ponting played a flawless innings, his teammates paid the price for playing rash shots on a firm pitch. Ponting was unfortunate to miss becoming the only batsman to score centuries in each innings of a Test four times. He holds the record with India’s former opener Sunil Gavaskar.

He played slowly in the first session and cracked seven fours in the second to carry his fine form from his 101 on the opening day. In the post-tea session, the Australian captain was more subdued and turned to occupy the crease to slowly increase the lead.

South Africa carefully negotiated the six overs before stumps comfortably to reduce the target by 30 and the Proteas now need 153 runs to end Australia’s dominance at home.