Adelaide, Nov 23: Graeme Smith survived two close calls to post his 26th test century and guide South Africa's comeback after Morne Morkel's five-wicket haul swiftly stemmed Australia's run flow on Friday in the second cricket test.
South Africa reached stumps at 217-2 on day two in reply to Australia's first innings of 550, with Smith unbeaten on 111 and Jacques Rudolph on 25.
The tourists were in a radically better position than at stumps the previous day, when Australia had raced to its second-highest first-day score ever of 482-5.
Morkel triggered Australia's tail-end collapse when he bowled Michael Clarke for 230 and he finished with 5-146, his sixth five-wicket haul in tests.
The Australians added only 68 in 21 overs in ideal batting conditions before being dismissed just before lunch on Friday.
Smith had a big reprieve on 46 when he stepped down the pitch and wicketkeeper Matt Wade missed a routine stumping chance off Clarke's part-time spin.
And, after Mike Hussey broke the 138-run opening stand with a direct hit from mid-on to run out Alviro Petersen (54) at the non-striker's after he ran wide to avoid a collision with batting partner Smith, the South Africa captain was given another batting life.
Smith was on 78, and total at 146-1, when he was adjudged out after a loud, unanimous and instantaneous appeal for caught behind off James Pattinson but referred the decision to the TV umpire, who couldn't find evidence of a nick.
The South Africans were relatively untroubled by the Australian pacemen on flat and true second-day pitch and Clarke used eight bowlers, including all of his part-timers searching for a breakthrough.
Occasional legspinner David Warner provided one in his first over, having Hashim Amla (11) stumped by Wade with a ball that dipped and turned and surprised the South African batsman after an erratic few previous deliveries.
Smith remained composed and guided the South African innings at a moderate pace compared with Thursday's crash and bash by the Australians, reaching his century from 198 balls.
South Africa hasn't lost a test when Smith has scored a century, a good omen for the team which needs to avoid a series loss to retain its No. 1 test ranking.
After a remarkable opening day—when Clarke, Warner (119) and Hussey (103) all scored rapidly, Friday wasn't a good one for Clarke's Australians.
The hosts lost five wickets for 22 runs—including the dismissal of Mike Hussey on the last ball of the first day—slipping to 504-9 before James Pattinson (42) and Nathan Lyon (7 not out) combined for a 46-run last-wicket stand.
The slide started with the dismissal of Clarke, who became the first batsman to post four 200-plus test scores in one calendar year when he reached his double century late on day one.
He added only six to his overnight score before he was beaten by Morkel and lost his middle stump.
That dismissal ended his stunning start to the series against top-ranked South Africa, scoring 489 runs before losing his wicket—the 31-year-old Clarke scored an unbeaten 259 in the drawn first test at Brisbane last week.
Morkel also removed Matt Wade (6) and Ben Hilfenhaus (0) to return 5-146 and claim his sixth five-wicket haul in test cricket.
Rory Kleinveldt collected his first test wicket—albeit after a very close review for a front-foot no-ball—when Peter Siddle (6) edged him to Smith at first slip.
Pattinson went out swinging and played an entertaining cameo just when it seemed Australia had completely lost its ascendancy, stroking four boundaries and two sixes in his 35-ball knock before he edged Dale Steyn to first slip, giving Smith his fourth catch of the innings.
The bowling figures weren't flattering for any of the South African bowlers apart from Morkel, but legbreak bowler Imran Tahir took a particular punishing and returned 0-180 from 23 overs—the ninth worst figures ever in test cricket.
The 33-year-old Tahir's economy rate of 7.82 an over was the fourth worst of all time.
The South African attack had a massive setback when 37-year-old allrounder Jacques Kallis injured his right hamstring after taking two early wickets and limped off the field in the 17th over.
Australia at that stage was 77-3. Kallis hasn't returned to the field and will not bowl in the remainder of the Adelaide test, but is expected to bat down the order.
His injury came only hours after paceman Vernon Philander was ruled out of the match with a bad back.