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Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis are both approaching centuries as South Africa went into stumps at 255 for 2 on the first day at the Gabba in Brisbane today as play ended five minutes before the scheduled close just when Australia captain Michael Clarke took the new ball. But, umpires Asad Rauf and Billy Bowden ended the day's proceedings at the time despite only 82 overs being bowled in the day as the light was fading.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith will be pleased with the performance of his batsmen as three of the top four came good on a pitch that didn't do as much much was expected, but Australia will rue their missed opportunities. Amla unbeaten on 90 and Kallis, who is 84 not out, will look to not only reach their respective centuries, but also to extend their 136-run partnership for the third wicket at a venue where South Africa are playing their first Test match since 1963. The century stand between Amla and Kallis is their 11th in Tests; and only Kallis and AB de Villiers with 12 century stands are ahead on list of South African batting pairs with most century partnerships.
Australia could have dismissed both Amla and Kallis though in the post-tea session with Peter Siddle being the central factor in both situations. While Kallis was caught off a Siddle no-ball when on 43, the bowler failed to hold onto a caught and bowled chance off Amla when the batsman was on 74. Siddle and the rest of the Australian team will hope these missed opportunites don't cost them too dear, especially as South Africa look all set to post a huge total.
The hosts will need to bounce back strongly tomorrow and the onus will be on the pace trio of Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus and James Pattinson to improve on their first day's performance; with the pressure also increasing on off-spinner Nathan Lyon.
SOUTH AFRICA SHOW
Alviro Petersen missed a good chance to score his fifth century, but Amla reached the 5000 Test runs landmark as South Africa added 96 runs in the second session to go into tea at 186 for 2 after 55 overs. Amla was 69 not out with Kallis unbeaten on 37 as the pair went on a rampage just before the break finding the gaps in the field and hitting boundaries at regular intervals.
Hilfenhaus and Pattinson started the session well and kept things tight immediately after lunch but Kallis counter-attacked while Amla unfurled his signature drives and cuts as the Australian bowlers gradually buckled under the pressure as South Africa regained the momentum after Petersen's dismissal.
Petersen, who reached his 50 from 99 deliveries, had a controversial let-off when he survived a loud LBW appeal from Hilfenhaus when on 51. The Australians went for their third referral but the TV umpire ruled "umpire's call" despite replays showing the ball first hitting the toe of the boot of Petersen's leading foot and heading for the middle stump as some part of the ball had pitched outside the off stump. The failed referral also meant Australia had no more reviews left for the rest of the South African innings. Petersen (64) then added insult to injury when he cut the very next delivery to the boundary, but his 127-ball innings ended when he mishit a Nathan Lyon delivery to Hussey at mid-on as the 90-run partnership for the second wicket came to an abrupt end against the run of play.
Kallis got off the mark with a boundary off Lyon, but then followed a good spell for Australia as the bowlers kept things tight and the batsmen found fielders more often than not. Amla had a close shave on 42 when he was well beaten by a Siddle length delivery, but soon reached his half-century in the 108th delivery that he faced with a glorious cover drive of Hilfenhaus. Kallis, meanwhile, stamped his authority with a six off Lyon even as he kept the scoreboard ticking over.
Pattinson trapped Smith plumb in front and got the decision in his favour after some drama; but this success apart, the first session of the three-Test series between Australia and South Africa at the Gabba in Brisbane today, belonged to the hosts.
Smith elected to bat on a greenish and lively wicket and his decision was vindicated as South Africa went into lunch at 90 for 1 in their first Test appearance in Brisbane for 49 years. At lunch, Petersen was unbeaten on 45 while Amla was 29 not out.
Hilfenhaus and Pattinson shared the new ball and neither managed to trouble Smith and Pattinson failed to make use of the early movement on offer and instead were too short and too straight allowing the Proteas' openers to play themselves in without encountering too many problems.
Smith, who got off the mark in the first delivery of the series, bowled by Hilfenhaus, survived a caught behind appeal by the same bowler in the third over despite Clarke asking for a referral as replays showed the ball had hit the pad and not the bat. But, Smith's luck ran out in the 11th over of the match - the first of Pattinson's second spell - when the young fast bowler convinced Clarke to use the second review and overturn umpire Billy Bowden's not out decision. Pattinson had pitched the delivery on a good length and the ball hit Smith's back pad and would have crashed into the off stump. Pattinson tested Amla early in his innings with the batsman surviving a loud LBW appeal that wasn't referred after Clarke consulted wicket-keeper Matthew Wade.
Pattinson and Siddle did cause some discomfort to Petersen and Amla soon after Smith's dismissal, but they soon started playing with confidence and rotating strike. The bowling woes were compounded by the fact that Hilfenhaus, who was the in-form bowler last summer, failed to make any breakthroughs even though he was economical. Lyon extracted some spin and bounce from the pitch, but that was negated by the fact that Amla didn't allow him to settle and hit him for a straight six. Petersen, who preferred going on the back foot for most deliveries, played the pull shot well and looked composed after the departure of his captain inside the first hour of play.
Rob Quiney earlier became Australia's 429th Test cricketer and received his baggy green from the legendary Allan Border. Australia left out pacer Mitchell Starc and went with the spin of Lyon while the Proteas gave Rory Kleinveldt his Test debut in a four-strong pace attack.
South Africa are looking to repeat their historic series win in Australia four years ago against Clarke's third-ranked side. Australia can return to the top of the rankings with victory in the three-Test series, which also includes matches in Adelaide and Perth.