Aussies claim slight in Perth

PA Sport
Ricky Ponting did not bat on the first day of his final Test before retirement
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Ricky Ponting did not bat on the first day of his final Test before retirement

The WACA crowd may have been denied the chance to see departing hero Ricky Ponting bat, but they will have gone home satisfied after Australia edged the opening day of the deciding Test against South Africa.

Having dismissed the tourists for 225 midway through the evening session, Australia soon lost Ed Cowan and Shane Watson in reply, creating the opportunity for Ponting to stride to the wicket on his final international appearance.

But with time running out in the day's play, and the crowd on their feet preparing to welcome their hero, the hosts instead sent in nightwatchman Nathan Lyon and he and David Warner somehow survived a series of near misses as Australia closed on 33 for two.

It was Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc who impressed on a bowler-friendly Perth wicket as the hosts claimed the early initiative. The two left-armers, making their first appearances in the three-match series, claimed two wickets each as the Proteas struggled with only only Faf du Plessis' composed 78 not out challenging Australia's supremacy.

Captain Graeme Smith can at least claim to have been dismissed by a good ball, edging a full-length delivery from Watson to Michael Clarke at first slip for 16. Alviro Petersen and Hashim Amla moved the score on from 38 to 61 but the former's dismissal prompted a collapse which saw South Africa lose five wickets for 14 runs either side of lunch.

Starc bowled Petersen and then Jacques Kallis before a smart piece of fielding from Warner saw the hosts also claim the prize wicket of Hashim Amla with a run out. John Hastings' first wicket in Test cricket was that of AB De Villiers and Johnson returned to remove Dean Elgar for a duck.

Du Plessis did his best to engineer a lower-order fightback and received decent support from Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel. Philander had already clubbed off-spinner Lyon for one huge six when, on 30, he holed out to Mike Hussey in attempting a repeat, while Morkel smashed three successive fours off Johnson before he played a loose shot off Lyon.

In between those dismissals, Dale Steyn dragged a short, wide delivery from Johnson onto his stumps but the Proteas paceman did better when he got the ball in his hand towards the end of the day.

The 'Steyn Remover' found his line and length immediately, Cowan edging the third ball of the innings to Kallis in the slips.

Philander then snared Watson lbw on appeal to leave the match in the balance and Australia, who will replace their opponents at the top of the Test rankings with a win, needing a final, big innings from Ponting.

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