Ponting helps steady Australia after early stback

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DURBAN, South Africa, Mar 24 (Reuters) Ricky Ponting rode his luck on the first morning of the second test against South Africa today, the Australian captain leading the tourists to 74 for one wicket at the lunch interval.

Australia won the toss and elected to bat on a pitch that offered movement off the seam in the first hour and the home side were quick to capitalise on the conditions.

At the interval, opener Justin Langer was 32 not out with Ponting on 34 in an unbroken stand that began before Australia had put a run on the board.

Ponting took guard just nine balls into the match after Matthew Hayden drove expansively at a wide delivery from fast bowler Makhaya Ntini and edged a catch to AB de Villiers at third slip.

Ponting offered two chances in the first test in Cape Town, which Australia won by seven wickets, and he had more luck on Friday when he gloved a legside delivery from Ntini when he was on five, but a diving wicketkeeper Mark Boucher failed to hold it.

Langer and Ponting rode out the rest of a first hour in which the ball often deviated off the seam, but they were able to score more freely as lunch approached.

Seamer Shaun Pollock, who shared the new ball with Ntini, bowled tightly in his first spell of seven overs in which he conceded just seven runs.

Ntini looked threatening at times and took one for 29 from his seven overs.

Fast bowler Jacques Kallis was difficult to score off, but lacked penetration despite giving up just three runs from six overs.

All rounder Pollock, who missed the first test because of a muscle injury, replaced Andrew Hall in the only change to the South African team.

Australia named an unchanged side from the one that eased to victory within three days in Cape Town.

The third and final test starts in Johannesburg on March 31.

REUTERS PDS PM1640

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