South Africa strike after making 451
Three top-order Australian wickets in less than 15 overs on the back of an imposing first-innings total of 451 meant that South Africa were firmly in control of the Sydney Test at the end of the second day. After Jacques Kallis (111) and Ashwell Prince (119) had stretched their partnership to a mammoth 219, South Africa were helped by their lower order in getting to a total they would have aimed for when they won the toss. The real twist, though, came in the last hour, when South Africa snared three wickets. Australia ended the day tottering at 3 for 54, still 397 in the arrears.
Kallis and Prince had constructed the perfect launching pad with their gutsy resistance on the opening day, but in the context of the series - South Africa need to win here to draw level - the team needed quick runs to drive home the advantage. Australia, however, denied them that luxury in the first two sessions of the second day, conceding just 160 runs in 65 overs. Shaun Pollock (46) and the rest of the tail injected some momentum in the hour after tea, but by the time the declaration finally came at nine wickets down, South Africa had only left themselves three days and a bit to bowl Australia out twice and level the series.
However, they began that quest in right earnest, with Charl Langeveldt inducing both the Australian openers into inside-edging their strokes onto their stumps. Justin Langer's dismissal, especially, was crucial: he was in fluent touch, crunching the ball to all parts en route to 25, and had been reprieved by another bit of sloppy catching, this time by Kallis at second slip off Pollock. It got even better for South Africa when Brad Hodge fended one to short in the last over. Andre Nel, the bowler, couldn't believe the set-up had worked so perfectly as South Africa left the field a happy bunch, with returns which flattered their bowlers.
The early part of the day, though, belonged to Kallis and Prince. In conditions which were much better than the gloomy skies which persisted throughout the first day, both batsmen got through a torrid spell by Brett Lee. Armed with the second new ball, Lee charged in and bowled at express pace. He swung the ball appreciably, bowled deadly accurate bouncers, beat the bat, struck the body, and did everything but take a wicket. Already pulled up by the umpires for dissent on the first day, Lee's cause wasn't helped when Billy Bowden turned down a legitimate lbw shout when Kallis was on 85.
With easy runs not on offer from either end - Glenn McGrath was miserly as usual - runs came in a trickle, mostly from Prince, who was far more positive than Kallis. High on confidence after his first-day performance, Prince unveiled some handsome drives through the off side. Runs were still at a premium, though - Lee's 51 balls to Kallis went for two, while McGrath conceded three from 42 to Prince. And when Kallis finally tried to break the shackles against Andrew Symonds, he only managed to sky a catch to long leg.
After lunch, as Warne and MacGill settled into their rhythms, South Africa's cause wasn't helped by a couple of dubious decisions - Prince was given out shouldering arms to one which pitched wide outside off, and despite the sharp turn, would have missed off, while Mark Boucher was given out caught even though he played his sweep shot into the ground.
Pollock finally upped the ante in the final session, playing with purpose, taking the spinners on, and galloping to within four of a half-century. Johan Botha, making his Test debut, was impressive too, defending securely and attacking with a flourish, but it still seemed South Africa had left themselves with too little time to force a result. The last hour changed all that, though, as South Africa ended the day well on top.
Jacques Kallis c McGrath b Symonds 111 (4 for 305)
Top-edged a pull to fine leg
Ashwell Prince lbw b Warne 119 (5 for 344)
Padded up to one which pitched wide outside off and spun sharply, but would have missed the stumps
Mark Boucher c Gilchrist b MacGill 5 (6 for 355)
Bottom-edged a sweep onto ground, then ballooned off pad; given out by Aleem Dar
Jacques Rudolph c Gilchrist b McGrath 38 (7 for 394)
Nicked one in the corridor
Shaun Pollock c Hodge b Lee 46 (8 for 433)
Drove a full delivery straight to mid-on
Andre Nel c Hodge b Warne 12 (9 for 449)
Mistimed a slog to short cover
Matthew Hayden b Langeveldt 4 (1 for 22)
Inside-edged a drive onto off stump
Justin Langer b Langeveldt 25 (2 for 35)
Dragged a short ball outside off back onto his stumps
Brad Hodge c Rudolph b Nel 6 (3 for 54)
Fended a well-directed short ball to short leg
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo