Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Melbourne, 2nd day December 27, 2005

Arthur prepares South Africa for 'attritional' battle

Michael Hussey's third Test century came with a chance on 27 © Getty Images
Mickey Arthur, the South Africa coach, expects the "attritional" Test series to continue on day three but is confident his side can post a formidable first-innings target through the unbeaten Herschelle Gibbs and Jacques Kallis. After cutting Australia to 9 for 248 and then watching them run away through Michael Hussey in the first session, the tourists produced a solid batting display to reduce the deficit to 186 with half-centuries to Gibbs and AB de Villiers.

Arthur was content with the way his side recovered from the 107-run 10th-wicket partnership from Hussey and Glenn McGrath, but he predicted the match's crucial hour would occur on the third morning. "It's going to be a day of attrition from both sides where if nothing happens we'll have [Shane] Warne bowling around the wicket," he said. "It's going to be a tough old day. The game is evenly poised and the first session will be crucial."

Kallis, who dropped a regulation slips catch when Hussey was 27, feels he owes the team for the miss and his chance for redemption will come tomorrow when he resumes on 17 with Gibbs. "We've still got a few batsmen left but Kallis is the wall and we can build around him," Arthur said. "Gibbs scores so we are looking for a really big partnership from them. It's going to be a day of absorbing the pressure first up because Australia will hit us quite hard. We want to absorb it and then put in on Australia."

Catching was again South Africa's main concern - ten chances have been floored in the two Tests, including Andre Nel dropping Ricky Ponting on 17 yesterday - and Arthur said he might have placed too much emphasis on it during training. "Three have been must-haves but the rest have been one-handed diving efforts," he said. "The catching has been disappointing but we bowled well and batted beautifully today."

Hussey accepted his life and added a further 95 to punish the lapse with McGrath. He did not contemplate his third Test century until he was in the nineties and he was thankful for the contribution of McGrath's 11 as Australia reached 355. "If we can get a couple of wickets early it will be good and I think it will be a difficult pitch to bat last on," Hussey said. "It's going to be a great Test and we're just in front at the moment."

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo