Plays of the day January 6, 2009

Exit Hayden?


The way Ricky Ponting waited by the fence until Hayden jogged off the ground after his dismissal, it could have been his final bat with the squad © AFP
 

Hayden slips to change of tactics
Neil McKenzie was standing in for Graeme Smith as captain in South Africa's second innings and his judgment early on the fourth morning was astute. Morne Morkel had started at the Randwick End but soon switched to the Paddington End where he could aim for the big cracking running down the pitch, which was particularly difficult for left-handers. Matthew Hayden tried to loft Morkel's fifth ball over midwicket but could get only an inside edge, which rebounded on to the stumps.

Should he go or should he stay?
Apart from the country's losses, Hayden's future has been the major Australian issue over the New Year. Selectors, team-mates and diehard fans seem to be the only ones on Hayden's side and he did little to secure an extended run during this match with scores of 31 and 39. With his wife Kellie standing to clap in the stands, Hayden left the field with a wipe of his eyes, a look around the ground and a brief bat raise. It was definitely his last Test innings in Australia, but the way Ricky Ponting waited by the fence until Hayden jogged off the ground, it could have been his final bat with the squad.

And the new Graeme Smith is ...
Morne Morkel. With Smith carrying a broken hand, South Africa needed another opener and Morkel was called to partner McKenzie. Morkel lasted two balls before becoming Doug Bollinger's first Test wicket, with the "batsman" chipping to Mitchell Johnson at mid-on.

Clarke sprints and limps
The pace of Australia's batting increased dramatically after tea and Michael Clarke's left hamstring struggled to keep up with the pace. After sprinting for a run he pulled up and Alex Kountouris, Australia's physio, ran out for a quick consultation. Clarke resisted calling a runner and stayed until sweeping to Hashim Amla on 41. The short session after tea was good practice for the one-day component of the summer, with Michael Hussey swiping a fierce six to long-on from Makhaya Ntini.

Closing time
Declarations are something Ponting hasn't got the hang of in his five years as captain. He tends to bat on too long, but there have been memorable successes, such as the defeat of India here last year. He left his men expanding the target for 30 minutes after tea, posting 4 for 257 for a lead of 375. Australia will have to wait another day to see if it was a good decision.

Hare and tortoise
The batting was two paced in the first session, with Hayden and Ricky Ponting finding boundaries and Simon Katich struggling. At one stage Katich spent 39 balls on 17 before getting a single off an inside-edge. It came during a period when Jacques Kallis delivered six overs for one run. All five maidens were to Katich.

And the new Graeme Smith is ...
Morne Morkel. With Smith carrying a broken hand, South Africa needed another opener and Morkel was called to partner McKenzie. Morkel lasted two balls before becoming Doug Bollinger's first Test wicket, with the "batsman" chipping to Mitchell Johnson at mid-on. "It was a risk worth taking," the coach Mickey Arthur said. "He's always likening himself to Matthew Hayden so we thought we'd take a look. It didn't work, but I was very happy to get through with only his casualty."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo