South Africa lose wickets in chase for runs at Gabba
SOUTH Africa this afternoon had lost two wickets in their battle for runs against Australia at the Gabba.
Alviro Petersen was the second wicket to fall on his way for 64 after trying to loft Nathan Lyon over mid on.
Instead he hits it straight down the throat of Michael Hussey.
South Africa were 1-90 at lunch on day one of the first Test in Brisbane after Australia claimed the key wicket of captain Graeme Smith during the first session.
For 10 overs, Smith (10) and fellow opener Alviro Petersen looked comfortable at the crease and settled into a nice groove against an occasionally wayward Australian attack.
But after winning the toss and electing to bat, the Proteas captain fell in the exact method Australia's leaked tactical dossier suggested was the best way to get him - leg before.
James Pattinson (1-29 from nine overs) took the wicket, pressing the batsman up on the crease as the ball smacked into his back pad halfway up middle stump.
Umpire Billy Bowden did not raise the finger but a confident Pattinson asked for the decision to be reviewed, and in return earned his first scalp of the international summer.
Australia's three-pronged pace attack was too short at times through the first session but Smith's departure after just 27 deliveries piled the pressure back on the tourists at 1-29.
However, there has been no joy since for the home side.
Petersen and Hashim Amla (29 not out) are in the middle and have combined for a partnership worth 61 that has steadied the South African ship.
Petersen has hit five boundaries while Amla also looks in the mood after crashing spinner Nathan Lyon down the ground for a big six.
Preferred ahead of twelfth man Mitchell Starc, Lyon had kept things tight prior to that and finished with figures of 0-17 from his three-over spell.
Smith had survived an earlier appeal in the third over, but DRS replays showed a leg side ball from Ben Hilfenhaus flicked his pad, not his bat, despite a half-hearted shout from wicketkeeper Matthew Wade.
That left Australia with just one unsuccessful use of the DRS system remaining this innings.
Hilfenhaus (0-14 from eight overs) and Peter Siddle (0-28 from seven) were rotated in and out of the attack but the Proteas are now on top thanks to Petersen and Amla's second-wicket stand.
Gabba hoped to influence Australia win against South Africa
AUSTRALIAN captain Michael Clarke says he wants to see the colour of the Gabba pitch before he decides who to leave out of the 12 for today's first Test against South Africa.
He might also want to look at the colour of the sky before deciding what to do if he wins the toss.
One man who knows all about playing at the Gabba is Queensland captain and former Australian one-day and T20 player James Hopes.
He said a lot had been made in the lead-up to the match about what the pitch could do, and much of the speculation was overblown.
"The Gabba is one of the few places in Australia where the weather forecast can influence your decisions," Hopes said.
"Having said that, if I win the toss I'm batting, especially if the sun is out. If you bat first and you're still batting at the end of the first day, you'd be in a really good position.
"If your two openers are still in at lunch, you'll win the game."
Hopes did sound a note of caution, however, about the lack of experience at the top of Australia's batting order, with openers David Warner and Ed Cowan having played just 12 Tests between them, and No.3 batsman Rob Quiney making his Test debut.
"From an experience viewpoint the top order could have a question mark," Hopes said.
"But Warner has played a lot against these guys, and Cowan and Quiney have as well in other competitions.
"I think Quiney is an exceptional player. he's very good off the back foot - the short balls won't worry him."
As much as Hopes said he was looking forward to seeing the Victorian make his debut, he also said he couldn't wait to see what former Delhi Daredevils teammate Morne Morkel could do alongside fellow Proteas pacemen Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.
"Steyn is exceptional, and Philander is very interesting.
He's not quick - in the 130s - but he moves the ball around and can bowl long spells.
"But I'm most looking forward to watching Morne. He's very fast and very tall ... and moves the ball as well.
"And of course if those three miss out you go to the best all-rounder in the world (Jacques Kallis)."
While both captains said they were undecided about the final make-up of the teams, both are likely to go in with a spinner.
That would mean one of Australia's pace quartet - Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Starc - would miss out.
It could come down to a choice between Hilfenhaus and Starc, and with the part-time bowling of the injured Shane Watson missing, Clarke may go with Hilfenhaus given he can bowl extended spells, while Starc is more of an impact bowler.
AUSTRALIA: Michael Clarke (c), Ed Cowan, David Warner, Rob Quiney, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Matthew Wade, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Ben Hilfenhaus (12th man to be named).
SOUTH AFRICA: Graeme Smith (c), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Jacques Rudolph, JP Duminy, Fas du Plessis, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir, Dale Steyn (12th man to be named). BETTING: First Test: Australia