Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Melbourne, 3rd day December 28, 2005

'When I've batted I've been the most nervous' - Symonds

Andrew Symonds struck at vital times and played a big part in Australia taking the first-innings lead © Getty Images

Andrew Symonds grabbed more wickets in one session today than he had in his previous five Tests. Australia's struggling and nominal allrounder - he has 101 runs in his preferred role as a batsman - breathed some life into his career with 3 for 16 in a seven-over spell of nagging off-cut and inswing to exploit the pitch's variable bounce.

The dismissal of Mark Boucher, a slightly high lbw decision, was Symonds' first since Adelaide last month and his team-mates were so excited they threatened to grind off his dreadlocks with their furious head-rubbing. It is a celebration Symonds helped invent and he borrowed one from Jason Gillespie when he whipped himself like a jockey after bowling Herschelle Gibbs. "I don't know what I was doing there," he said.

When Shaun Pollock fell three overs after his opening scalp Symonds air-punched so hard he threw himself off balance. Finally his Test resume contained something memorable and it was a "great relief". "It's a tricky game to be good at all the time," he said. "To contribute in an important session like that felt really good." South Africa were closing on Australia's total of 355 but with the boost from Symonds they collected a 44-run lead and extended it to 154 at stumps.

Symonds has experienced a difficult time since returning to the Test side against West Indies in Hobart, and he will try to use his bowling confidence to kick-start his main discipline. "I'm a batting allrounder, we all know that," he said. "It really helps when you start any career, whether it's in one-dayers or a Test, to get a good score in your first or second matches. That hasn't happened to me so I've been searching for it. I've been nervous before I batted and when I've batted I've been the most nervous I can remember."

Supported by the children at the ground who have been besotted by his one-day performances, Symonds said he might try a more natural approach in the second innings. "As a sportsman you try to draw on anything to take positive feedback or advice," he said. "Hopefully there will be no nerves and I can step into my first half-volley and hit it down the ground for four. Maybe I've got to push things back on the bowler, but that will depend on the state of the game."

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo