Hughes ton puts Australia on top
Two wickets in the final session helped South Africa fight back after a tough opening day of the second Test, but a flamboyant maiden Test century for Phillip Hughes ensured Australia were firmly in command in Durban.
Hughes and Simon Katich, took the attack to their hosts from the start, putting on 184 for the first wicket to lay a firm foundation for the tourists, who are 1-0 up in the three-match series.
South Africa’s pacemen struggled with their line and length through the opening two sessions at Kingsmead.
But Dale Steyn and Paul Harris eked out two wickets after tea to give the Proteas renewed hope. Michael Hussey (37 not out) and Marcus North (17no) negotiated the closing overs to take Australia to 303 for four.
Hughes’ maiden century, in only his second Test match, helped the tourists take full command as he and Katich raced through the morning session to leave them on 119 for none at lunch.
The two openers made a flying start and were especially harsh on Morkel – Hughes taking 21 runs off his second over of the morning to bring up the 50 in just the 12th over.
Morkel, already taken for two fours in the over, sent in a high no-ball bouncer that flew over wicketkeeper Mark Boucher for yet another boundary, with two more following off the final two deliveries.
Hughes then brought up his fifty in just 63 balls, including 10 fours, to help his side reach lunch in a commanding position.
After the break, he survived an early scare when Harris appealed loudly for leg before.
Umpire Rauf decided it was not out – and after Smith decided to use the first of his two referrals, Steve Bucknor confirmed the initial decision with the batsman having a slight inside-edge to thank for his reprieve.
At the other end, Katich continued his patient knock bringing up his half-century off 100 balls when he clipped Dale Steyn past square leg for two.
His young partner showed considerable gusto to race through to his hundred with consecutive sixes off Harris. It came off only 132 balls, including 17 fours and those two sixes.
Two dropped catches followed, Hashim Amla first putting down a sharp chance from Katich on 55 at midwicket – before Hughes' outside edge was grassed low down by Jacques Kallis off Morkel.
The young opener was out in the next over, when he chased a wide Kallis delivery only to cut it into the waiting hands of Neil McKenzie at gully.
The hosts then used up the second of their referrals unsuccessfully. Morkel thought he had heard Katich get a nick through to Mark Boucher – but 'Hot Spot' technology, available to the third umpire for the first time in this match, confirmed there was nothing to it.
The second breakthrough did arrive a few overs later when Ponting, on nine, uncharacteristically miscued Harris – and McKenzie took the catch at deep mid-off.
Resuming after tea with the score at 218 for two, South Africa looked to have dismissed Hussey when he was trapped in front by Morkel and given out by umpire Asad Rauf.
But after eventually deciding to refer the call, he was deemed not out by Bucknor after the ball pitched narrowly outside the line of leg stump, forcing the initial call to be reversed.
At the other end, Katich brought up his patient century from 177 balls when he carved a wide ball from Morkel through the off-side for four as Australia moved to 250 for two.
But the opener added just eight more runs to his total before Steyn tempted him into a false stroke off a good length that he nicked to Smith at first slip for 108.
Three over later, Michael Clarke was cleaned up by an excellent delivery from Harris, who watched as the ball was pitched on middle stump and straightened its way past the uncertain batsman for three.
But Hussey was joined by North and the pair consolidated with an unbroken 37-run stand as Australia ended the day well-placed at Kingsmead.