Ed Cowan
Ed Cowan

Ed Cowan is stuck on 98 not out at lunch but has helped make significant inroads into South Africa's big first-innings total, steering Australia to 3-214 after the first session on day four of the first Test at the Gabba.

The home side is now 236 runs behind the Proteas' score of 450, having made a miraculous recovery from the brink of near-disaster on the previous day.

Cowan is two runs short of his maiden Test century, having eclipsed the 74 he made against India in the third Test in Perth earlier this year, while captain Michael Clarke is at the other end on 78 not out.

Australia were 3-40 at one stage on Sunday but Cowan and Clarke's rescue mission has them on track for an unlikely draw after South Africa dominated either side of a washed out day two.

The pair have both turned their overnight scores into strong half-centuries and look in the mood to go further with their resilient 174-run partnership.

Resuming at 3-111, Cowan brought up his fourth Test fifty with a gentle leg-side push on the third ball of the day - but he remains extraordinary lucky to still be there.

In the shadows of stumps on day three, only a front-foot no ball from Morne Morkel (2-38) saved the Tasmanian southpaw from being caught behind.

In the first session on Monday, Cowan got away with a thick inside edge off Dale Steyn (1-52) that only just missed his own stumps.

But the 30-year-old has embraced his second and third lives and is making South Africa pay, smacking 13 boundaries.

He went close to making his hundred in the last over before lunch but tight stuff from Vernon Philander (0-40) kept him hanging.

Clarke is in good touch and brought up his half-ton with a classy square drive behind point. He has also hit the rope on eight occasions.

The Proteas were not assisted by a docile Gabba pitch, which continued to favour the batters despite an overcast sky hanging over south Brisbane.

Steyn, Morkel, Philander and Rory Kleinveldt (0-49) all battled manfully but generated next to no lateral movement.

With part-time tweaker JP Duminy out injured, South Africa captain Graeme Smith's off-spin saw four overs of action, returning figures of 0-17.

Jacques Kallis also bowled his first overs of the match in the first session and went 0-8 from four.


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