Hughes hammers South Africa
Centuries from Phillip Hughes and Simon Katich helped Australia reach 303-4 on the first day at Kingsmead.
By Graeme Mair
Last Updated: 07/03/09 5:16pm
Australia 303-4 (P J Hughes 115, S M Katich 108) v South Africa
Phillip Hughes became the youngest Australian to score a Test century for 43 years on the opening day of the second Test against South Africa at Kingsmead.
The 20-year-old New South Wales opener produced a furious blitz to lay the platform for Australia to reach the close on 303-4.
He fell for 115 midway through the afternoon having dominated an opening stand of 184 with Simon Katich.
Katich himself progressed to a hundred in the evening session, although he departed for 108 as Australia were reduced to 266-4.
But Michael Hussey (37no) and Marcus North (17no) saw the tourists through to the close in good shape with an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 37.
Both teams named unchanged line-ups from the opening game of the three-match series at the Wanderers, which the tourists won by 162 runs.
Australia's openers, led by the flowing blade of Hughes, immediately went on the offensive to fully justify Ricky Ponting's decision to bat first on a dry surface, slower than that usually found at the Durban venue.
The diminutive left-hander was particularly effective on the square-cut, aided by the wayward fare served up by South Africa's seamers, particularly Morne Morkel, whose first two overs disappeared for 25.
Hughes already had 75 to his name by the time Australia went to lunch at 119-0, his fellow New South Wales left-hander Katich largely content to admire the show from the non-striker's end.
And the rookie went through to three figures in some style during the second session by carting successive maximums off Paul Harris.
The first, which moved him to 99, went straight back over the left-arm spinner's head, followed immediately by a more agricultural heave into the stand at straight midwicket.
Hughes' ton, already the sixth of his 20-match first-class career, came from just 132 balls and featured 17 fours and two sixes.
South Africa's bowlers improved in the second half of the day, though, removing both Hughes and Ponting to peg Australia back to 218-2 by tea.
Hughes enjoyed a life on 114 when Jacques Kallis dropped a low chance at slip off Morkel, but Kallis (1-41) made amends by claiming the wicket himself in the next over courtesy of a smart catch by Neil McKenzie in the gully.
After waiting for almost 44 overs to make his entrance, Ponting failed to settle and soon holed out to McKenzie at mid-off for nine from a miscued attempt to hit Harris over the top.
Katich survived two anxious moments - a middled pull was dropped by Hashim Amla at midwicket on 55 off Morkel and, on 63, South Africa referred umpire Billy Bowden's decision to turn down a caught behind appeal, again off Morkel.
The Kiwi official's judgement was vindicated after a lengthy study of the replays - much to the relief of a bemused-looking Katich.
There was more referral fun after tea and again it was the unfortunate Morkel - who improved beyond recognition following his abysmal early spell - who was on the wrong side of the outcome.
Umpire Asad Rauf raised the finger to an lbw appeal against Hussey, who looked reluctant to leave the middle before eventually deciding to send the decision upstairs for confirmation.
Replays showed the ball had pitched outside the left-hander's leg-stump, prompting television umpire Steve Bucknor to instruct Rauf to overturn the decision.
Katich went to his seventh Test century from 177 balls with his 17th boundary, pushed through the covers off Morkel (0-68).
But he added just eight more to his tally before guiding a sharp delivery from Dale Steyn (1-63) into the hands of Graeme Smith at first slip, ending a 51-run alliance with Hussey.
And Australia were in danger of wasting their earlier good work when Michael Clarke (three) played for Harris' (2-66) arm ball and, instead, the delivery straightened a fraction to crash into middle stump.
Runs proved hard to come by as Hussey and North consolidated either side of the second new ball, seeing their side beyond 300 and safely to the close without further loss.