Sydney: Australian opener Mathew Hayden may have played his last knock in Tests at the Sydney Cricket Ground today.
He fell for 39 in the morning session, departing to a respectful applause from the crowd who wondered if the 103-Test veteran had played his last innings.
South African pacer Morne Morkel bowled the Queensland left-hander after he had struck seven fours in a better display than his first-innings 31, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Hayden has scored only 383 runs at 23.93 in his past nine matches since recovering from an Achilles injury. The 37-year-old has an impressive overall record of 8625 runs at 50.73 but has contributed only 117 runs at 19.56 in this series.
It was his highest Test score of the home summer and he played some impressive strokes, driving down the ground and clipping through and over leg with power. But all season Hayden''s downfall has been trying one big shot too many and again he fell to a moment of impulse when he inside-edged onto the stumps while trying to lift Morkel over mid-on from outside off.
As he walked off the ground to a standing ovation, with onlookers eagle-eyed for any hint of retirement, a small bat-raise was the only slight indication that he might have just played his last innings for Australia.
When reports last came in, Ricky Ponting had set South Africa a tempting target of 376 to complete a series whitewash at the SCG.
Australia declared at 4 for 257. South Africa will have to bat for nearly two hours before stumps, beginning with a replacement opener for the injured Graeme Smith.
On a pitch with some significant cracks, it could be a severely challenging target. South Africa was 13 for one.
The Australian second innings was marked by contributions from everyone in the top order. Apart from Hayden, Katich scored 61, Ponting scored 53, Hussey scored 45 not out, while Clarke scored 41.
The highest successful fourth-innings chase in a Sydney Test was Australia''s 2-288 against South Africa three years ago.