Australia A v South Africans, Sydney, 2nd day November 3, 2012

South Africans cruise despite loss of Petersen

South Africans 1 for 128 (Smith 60) trail Australia A 7 for 480 (Doolan 161*, Steyn 3-54) by 352 runs

The top three South African batsmen spent significant time in the middle, with the captain Graeme Smith scoring a confident 60 before retiring, and made as much use as they could of a lifeless SCG pitch. Only one wicket fell in the day, that of Alviro Petersen.

After Australia A piled on 155 runs in a session and a half, they decided they had kept the South African bowlers busy for long enough and declared on 480 for 7, allowing the visiting batsmen some practice. It may all prove futile in preparation for Brisbane, though. Instead of the pace and bounce that is expected at the Gabba, the SCG pitch remained docile and run-scoring was fairly uncomplicated no matter what the make-up of the attack.

Alex Doolan reached three-figures and Tim Paine a half-century as they combined for the highest eighth-wicket stand for Australia A - 162. Early morning rain and cloud overhead added nothing for the bowlers and the South African quicks did not expend much energy in the field, having had a decent workout on the first day.

Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Rory Kleinveldt bowled only one spell each in the first hour and did not take a wicket. Instead, the edges they induced went to third man - five boundaries were scored in that area and with nothing left to gain from the conditions, Graeme Smith lost interest.

Imran Tahir, JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis rotated for the rest of the time the South Africans were on the field and much of what they bowled was meat and drink for Doolan and Paine. Full tosses were ushered to the boundary, poor lengths were pounced on, swipes reached the midwicket boundary with ease and Doolan brought up a milestone he will no doubt cherish with a lofted drive over cover.

Tahir did get one ball to turn prodigiously, from offstump to first slip, but the other major bowling highlight came at the start of 129th over. Hashim Amla was handed the ball, a surprise considering Jacques Rudolph and Smith can both turn their arms over. It was not a first for Amla, though.

Amla has bowled seven overs in Test cricket and nearly 54 in first-class cricket but it was still an interesting sight to see him fire in offbreaks off a run-up of two paces. Amla fancied his chances, though, and appealed for lbw off the first ball he bowled to Doolan.

Andrew McDonald seemed determined to deny the South Africans as much batting time as he could and only mid-way through the middle session did he change his mind. Amla had bowled four overs when McDonald decided to end the clowning around and called his batsmen in, leaving the South Africans with four and a half sessions of time in the middle.

Graeme Smith's innings was in danger of being cut short after just one ball. Nathan Coulter-Nile got his first delivery to take the inside edge but the ball missed the stumps and went past the keeper. Smith was untroubled by that early incident and went on to butcher the ball through the on-side with familiarity.

Alviro Petersen, batting for the first time in a first-class match since he broke his hand at the beginning of the summer, was more circumspect. He survived an lbw shout from John Hastings and was content to defend rather than actively look for runs until after Smith retired.

Smith had few problems apart from an lbw shout from Glenn Maxwell in his innings and took himself out of the equation with more than an hour's play left in the day. Amla, like Petersen, took his time to get in but the two formed a steady partnership and runs were available for them in all areas, off all bowlers.

Petersen found his stride and played some good shots including a sweetly-timed cover drive. Against the run of play, he top-edged a sweep off Maxwell with less than five overs to go in the day. Coulter-Nile at midwicket tried to take the catch fingers up and almost fumbled before pouching the ball on the second attempt.

JP Duminy was sent in up the order at No.4, ahead of AB de Villiers, Jacques Rudolph and Faf du Plessis. All of those batsmen will look to spend time at the crease on the final day.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent