Ponting and Clarke help Australian recovery

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (Reuters) – A century-stand between skipper Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke helped Australia recover from a shaky start to reach 254 for five at close of play on the first day of the first Test against South Africa yesterday.

Australia were in trouble early on at 38 for three in Johannesburg as Dale Steyn claimed two wickets and Morne Morkel took one in the opening session.

However, Ponting (83) and Clarke’s partnership of 113 steadied things. Then debutant Marcus North’s composed 47 not out, and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, unbeaten on 37, added 72 for the sixth wicket before bad light, followed by rain, ended play early.

“The bowlers, myself included, would probably say we could have done better, but we’re not too disappointed,” Steyn told reporters.

“The day has finished close to even. The new ball is just around the corner and if we can strike early tomorrow morning then the advantage will belong to us,” added Steyn, who finished the day with three for 82.

He felt the South Africa attack had been hindered by a back injury to Jacques Kallis which kept the all-rounder off the field for a lengthy spell in the afternoon and prevented him from bowling more than four overs.

“We were a bowler short with Jacques off and it meant that instead of bowling short spells of five overs, that was increased to seven or eight and it takes its toll,” Steyn said.

“We haven’t been on the field for a full day since early January and so we battled to string the overs together, the patience wasn’t really there.”