Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Melbourne, 3rd day December 28, 2008

A most disappointing day - Clarke

The one-sided day has left Australia with little chance of levelling the series in the next two days

Why wasn't Simon Katich given a chance to bowl? © AFP (file photo)

Last Sunday Australia were shocked by South Africa chasing down 414 and exactly a week later they have again been humbled by the team that is challenging for the No. 1 ranking. Australia entered the day wanting three quick wickets to give their batsmen a healthy lead to build on; the openers did not take guard until ten minutes before stumps.

"Definitely one of our most disappointing days for a long time in Test cricket," the vice-captain Michael Clarke said. "Obviously turning up this morning I think we had a 196-run lead and now we're 60 behind, so a very disappointing day. It's another example of how fast things can change in Test cricket."

JP Duminy was brilliant in compiling 166 while batting mostly with the last three lower-order men and the final three partnerships were worth 275. But Australia contributed to their problems by fielding poorly and Dale Steyn went on to finish with 76 having given three opportunities.

Ricky Ponting put down a simple chance at second slip when Steyn had 32 and Nathan Hauritz grassed an opportunity off his own bowling with Steyn on 57. In between, Steyn skied one to mid-on where Michael Hussey's sunglasses failed to live up to their job; he completely lost the ball in the sun and it landed two metres away.

There were also problems with the attack after Brett Lee failed to take the field due to a foot injury. The three specialists - Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Hauritz - needed part-time backup and Clarke and Michael Hussey provided the bulk of the assistance while onlookers wondered why Simon Katich was not handed the ball.

"I actually asked Simon at some stage late in the day if he was okay to bowl," Clarke said. "He said he hadn't been bowling in the nets because his shoulder was a little bit sore. But in saying that I think if he had have been asked to bowl I think he would have done that."

Andrew Symonds entered the game carrying a knee injury that meant he was unable to bowl his medium-pacers but it appeared his offspin was also out of the question until he was given a chance in the 125th over of the innings. Alex Kountouris, the team physio, said Symonds could have bowled spin at any stage.

"He's a little bit restricted in what he can do but he can bowl his offspinners and bat comfortably and he says he feels reasonably comfortable running," Kountouris said. "We'll reassess him at the end of the game. He's not in a lot of pain, no. I think he's a bit hesitant because he got quite sore in the last game but he's reasonably good compared to where he was last game."

The one-sided day has left Australia with little chance of levelling the series in the next two days. However, South Africa have repeatedly shown in Perth and Melbourne that the state of a game can rapidly change and Clarke wants Australia to take heart from that on the fourth day.

"We've got a big day tomorrow," Clarke said. "We're going to have to come out and bat really well and then we'll wait and see what happens. I still believe if we bat well tomorrow we can get ourselves into a position to win this Test match."

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo