Vol. 5 Num 558 Wed. December 21, 2005  

Rudolph denies Australia

Test draftee Jacques Rudolph earned his stripes here Tuesday, staunchly defying Australia's attack and salvaging a gallant draw for South Africa in the opening cricket Test at the WACA ground.

Rudolph batted throughout the day, glueing the Proteas' second innings together with a masterful 102 not out from 283 balls in 431 minutes.

At the close of play South Africa had reached 287-5, still 204 runs short of the 491 they had needed for victory but good enough to keep their hopes alive in the three-Test series.

It was a remarkable achievement from the 24-year-old Rudolph who was called into the side to replace the injured Jacques Kallis.

In the end he virtually mirrored Kallis' brilliant 1999 innings when the all-rounder batted for more than eight hours to score his first Test century against Australia and stave off what had seemed certain defeat during the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.

On Monday, Kallis called on all his teammates to stand up and be counted to earn a draw after Australia prepared to come into the final day in an unlosable position.

Rudolph, playing in his 29th Test and fighting to keep his place in the side, clearly responded and together with middle order batsman Justin Kemp, who scratched out an uncharacteristically slow 55, the pair frustrated the Australians for 213 minutes.

Only three South African wickets fell all day, starting with Herschelle Gibbs for 33 and Ashwell Prince for eight in the morning session and Kemp, late in the day.

The hosts, red-hot favourites to win the match at the start of play on Tuesday, were left to ponder if they had left their declaration too late.

Captain Ricky Ponting called their second innings to a close as soon as Test newcomer Brad Hodge had brought up his double century just before tea on the fourth day.

Although the decision saw Hodge reach a major Test milestone, it came after the Australians had built-up a monumental lead of 491 runs.

Following the declaration they could take just two wickets in the remaining session and lost a further six overs when bad light stopped play.

Ponting has previously criticised West Indian captain Brian Lara for playing for milestones.

But while the Australians had cause to ponder, the South Africans Had reason to celebrate an old-fashioned innings built on concentration and willpower.

They were also left to contemplate what might have been had Hodge been dismissed in the second innings when dropped on 13.

Or more tantilisingly, had they justly been given an earlier crack at the Australian middle order after catching Ponting out early in his innings only to see the delivery wrongfully ruled a no-ball.

The two teams will now head to Melbourne in preparation for the Boxing Day Test which starts on December 26.

South African selectors were facing a headache about who they should drop with Kallis expected to return to the side along with the likely inclusion of spinner Nicky Boje to add variety to their attack.

Rudolph, with his fifth Test century, will clearly be hard to overlook.

THE SAVIOUR: A happy Jacques Rudolph of South Africa leaves the field after playing a match-saving knock of 102 not out on the final day of the first Test against Australia in Perth on Tuesday.. PHOTO: AFP