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February 26, 2009
Australia's pre-match training equipment usually includes a bag of balls but on the first day at the Wanderers they also needed a bag of baggy greens. As the group huddled an hour before play began, Ricky Ponting was handing out caps as freely as if they were promotional products. It was the first time since 1985 that Australia had included three debutants in a Test and Ben Hilfenhaus, Phillip Hughes and Marcus North received their caps in alphabetical order. And the last trio to debut together? A handy group made up of Merv Hughes, Geoff Marsh and Bruce Reid.
Right man, wrong shot
Phillip Hughes will be glad that the selectors invested in him for the entire series because the way he lost his wicket in his first Test innings wasn't a great advertisement for his game. The much-hyped Hughes volunteered to face the first ball of the match and left it alone comfortably. He should have done the same with his fourth delivery. Instead, Hughes' eyes lit up at the short, rising ball from Dale Steyn and he flashed madly trying to guide it over the slips, only to get an ugly edge behind. It's not a ball he will forget in a hurry, no matter how much he tries.
Right man, wrong continent
Instead of being part of Australia's attack, the destroyer from their last tour of South Africa, Stuart Clark, was in the television studio in Australia helping to introduce the day's play. Clark is still recovering from elbow surgery and the Australians would love to have him at the Wanderers, where he picked up seven wickets three years ago in his third Test. But he showed that even halfway around the world he can sum up conditions well. Worried by the threat of Dale Steyn and co, when Ponting won the toss and decided to bat, Clark said he hoped Australia wouldn't be three or four down at lunch. The result? 78 for 3 at the break.
Bowden 1, Smith 0
Billy Bowden has plenty of critics and after a couple of awful decisions over the past few months it's only fair that he be praised for his good calls. The first referral of the series came when the bowler Morne Morkel and the entire cordon were convinced Ricky Ponting had inside-edged behind for 70. Bowden said no and Graeme Smith said we'll see about that. The footage showed the ball had flicked Ponting's trousers on the way through and although there were perhaps a couple of replays too many, the third official Asad Rauf combined with Bowden to ensure the right call was made.
If the cap fits …
After the Australians were handing out baggy greens prior to play, there was another cap presentation at the tea break. Graeme Pollock was inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame and was given his commemorative cap by the ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat. Pollock is one of two South Africans, along with Barry Richards, to be included in the initial 55 men in the Hall of Fame. "It was a great idea by the players' association and the ICC to put something together like this," Pollock said. "I know the way we're playing cricket at the moment there are going to be quite a few more South Africans in the future."
Filling the Bullring
The Wanderers is famous for its intense atmosphere and there was plenty of noise on the first day, even if the crowd was just over 10,000. But a record number of tickets have been sold with more than 95,000 purchased for the five days. The next challenge is to get all those fans to actually turn up.
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