Ricky Ponting
Ricky Ponting

A magnificent display from South Africa pace duo Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander has left Australia in desperate trouble on 7-118 at lunch on day two of the third Test at the WACA, with Ricky Ponting failing again in his penultimate test innings.

A bumper crowd had arrived early at the WACA in anticipation of seeing the former skipper take to the crease in his record-equalling 168th Test and the moment they'd been waiting for arrived within eight minutes of the start of play.

David Warner (13) had added only one run to the overnight total when he took a wild swipe at the first delivery of Dale Steyn's (4-33) opening over and only succeeded in edging through to AB de Villiers.

What seemed like a clear-cut dismissal was duly upheld despite Australia's decision to refer it to the third umpire and after a lengthy delay, the stage was finally set for the man of the moment and the crowd rose to their feet to greet Ponting.

Given the phenomenal hype surrounding his farewell appearance and the fact that he came to the crease having scored a total of just 20 runs in the series, the 37-year-old unsurprisingly looked decidedly edgy as he prepared to face his first delivery from a fired-up Steyn.

But after keeping that first ball out in unconvincing style, Ponting got off the mark with a quick single and in the next over confidently pulled a Philander (2-41) lifter over square leg for two.

By this time, Michael Clarke had joined him at the wicket after Lyon (seven) could only fend a vicious, rearing delivery from Steyn to Francois du Plessis in the gully to leave the home side reeling at 4-35, still 190 runs in arrears.

But even with the vast majority of the crowd willing him to rediscover some form, Ponting was destined to fail for the fourth time in the series.

Philander caught him squarely in front and the decision to refer was surely taken more in hope than expectation as Ponting, who looked out for all money, was duly sent packing having faced seven balls for his total of four.

More misery was to follow for the Australians as Steyn, building up a ferocious head of steam and swinging the ball late through the air, brought run-scoring machine Clarke's innings to an end.

The home skipper had prodded around uncertainly to reach five before nicking another superb delivery from the Proteas' quick through to de Villiers and send his side crashing to 6-45.

Clarke's departure brought Matthew Wade to the wicket to join Michael Hussey, however, and the duo successfully stiffened the home side's resistance, with the former refusing to curb his attacking instincts despite the perilous position.

The left-hander hoisted a tiring Philander over square-leg for six, slashed him through the slips for four in the same over and then clubbed both Morne Morkel and spinner Robin Peterson to the boundary when they were introduced to the attack.

But his vital partnership of 55 with Hussey (12) came to an end two overs later when the West Australian edged Morkel to Graeme Smith at first slip.

Undaunted, Wade (60 not out) brought up his 49-ball half-century by despatching Peterson over the rope for a second time, while debutant John Hastings (two not out) dug in at the other to ensure the hosts suffered no further damage before lunch.


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