Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Sydney, 1st day January 3, 2009

South Africa aim for first-innings advantage

Cricinfo staff

Simon Katich: "You can tell he's [Michael Clarke] keen for a big one here" © AFP

South Africa finished a strong first day with six Australian wickets but already their thoughts are turning to producing a significant total to limit the difficulties in the fourth innings. Australia's Simon Katich expects the pitch to become lower and slower as the match goes on and there are already cracks that are being noticed by hopeful bowlers and wary batsmen.

After Australia ended the day at 6 for 267, the visitors were intent on limiting them to 350 at the worst. "It's very, very important to get a big, big total in the first innings to take a bit of pressure off the second innings," the assistant coach Vinnie Barnes said. "The wicket does get a bit slow and lower, and the spinners come into play."

Barnes said his side was slightly ahead but felt it could have been a "fantastic day" if Hashim Amla had held on to a relatively easy catch when Michael Clarke was 69. Clarke ended the day on 73 as he lifted the side from another uncomfortable start from the misfiring order.

Katich began strongly by racing to 47 off 52 balls, but Australia were struggling at 5 for 162 before Clarke and Brad Haddin put on 75. "We fought back really well in the last session," Katich said. "South Africa had their noses in front and then with that partnership between Clarke and Haddin we got ourselves in a position where we could get to 350 and put some pressure on them."

Katich, the New South Wales captain, has plenty of experience on the ground and said it looked like a dry wicket and "runs on the board are always vital". "This one will deteriorate differently to the Melbourne wicket," he said, "so hopefully this gives us a bit of an advantage over the next few days."

Clarke has not scored a Test century on his home ground and Katich said the signs were good. "You can tell he's keen for a big one here," Katich said. "The way he played today was very, very good and hopefully he can carry on that in the morning with Mitchell Johnson. If we get one or two really good partnerships we'll get ourselves in a reasonably good position."