MELBOURNE, AAP - Clumsy fielding again proved costly for South Africa yesterday with Mike Hussey's thrilling century guiding Australia to 355 before the tourists reached 2-169 at stumps on the second day of the second Test. A day after Australian captain Ricky Ponting received a "life'' on 17 and went on to make 117, Hussey smashed a glorious 122 after being dropped on 27.
The Western Australian shared an entertaining partner-ship of 107 with Glenn McGrath, who made 11 not out in two hours and faced 56 balls.
It was the fourth-highest 10th-wicket stand in Australian Test history and the best for the last wicket by Australia against South Africa.
Brett Lee removed Graeme Smith lbw for 22 at 1-36 but South Africa consolidated with an 86-run stand for the second wicket between opener AB De Villiers (61) and Herschelle Gibbs.
Gibbs was unbeaten on 54 at stumps, adding 47 for the third wicket with Jacques Kallis (17 not out). With bright sunshine drying out the wicket to make conditions more suited to batting, only four wickets fell in the second day's play.
Australia's late-order fightback ended 14 minutes after lunch when Hussey was bowled by Makhaya Ntini. Hussey hit 14 fours in and four sixes in his fourhour innings before a delighted crowd of 40,722. The ultra-professional Hussey finally cracked it for a Test debut last month against the West Indies and has hit the ground running.
The 30-year-old has already amassed a career tally of 564 runs at 94 including three centuries in five matches.
Resuming on 23 at 8-239, Hussey was on 27 when he lost Stuart MacGill (4), the leg-spinner bowled by Ntini (3-70) at 9-248. Hussey was then dropped at second slip by Kallis without addition to the score.
The left-hander completed his third Test century from 184 balls with a single to leg from the bowling of left-arm spinner Nicky Boje shortly before lunch.
The previous Australian record for a 10th-wicket partnership against South Africa was 82 by Vernon Ransford and Bill Whitty at the MCG in 1910-11.