What pressure on debut! One had to score a century. The other simply had to lend support. The former passed the test with flying colours. The latter was not as lucky.
No, Mitchell Johnson was not on debut. But Ben Hilfenahus was. And his job with the bat at the crease – not lose his wicket till Johnson could score the four runs that would get him to his maiden Test century. But the Australian lower order that tormented the South Africans for so long pulled up short when the opportunity to help a colleague presented itself.
It was a rather tragic end to the premier bowler for Australia on this tour after he tore into spinner Paul Harris, taking him apart for twenty-six runs in an over that included three sixes and two fours. However, it was Morne Morkel’s two wickets in two balls (it would have technically been three in three had Morkel not be no balled on the first) that brought to an end finally Australia’s resistance that included three century partnerships, the latest being between Marcus North and Johnson.
Earlier it was North who reached his century on debut, joining an elite list of cricketers to have achieved the feat, including former South African skipper and now commentator Kepler Wessels who must have wistfully watched on as he did the same playing for Australia in 1982-’83.
Australia’s innings folded rather ironically on a day that has gone almost entirely their way in the first two sessions. Johnson’s disappointment was shared by the members of the Australian dressing room clamouring for room on the balcony awaiting the moment that never came.
But it still meant Australia ended their innings rather formidably on 466, significantly better than when they found themselves at three down for less than forty runs. South Africa must now match them; the crown is still at stake.
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