Michael Clarke scored a defiant unbeaten 73 to save Australia the blushes as he steered his team to 267 for six on a keenly contested opening day of the third and final cricket Test against South Africa here today.
Australia, staring at a rare series whitewash, were tottering at 162 for five when Clarke and stumper Brad Haddin (38) joined hands to resurrect the innings with a 73-run partnership for the sixth wicket.
Fast bowler Dale Steyn removed Haddin late in the day to tilt the balance slightly in South Africa's favour on an engrossing opening day's play at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
However, by the time Haddin began his walk back to hut, Australia had reached a position from where that can continue their fight to save their number one ranking in Test cricket.
Australia were pegged back by a top-order failure with Hayden's awful run continuing and Ponting falling for a duck while none of the other batsmen could hang around for long.
The visitor's attack fired in unison with each bowler accounting for one Australian scalp in the first five wickets after the hosts decided to bat on winning the toss.
Vice-captain Clarke took on the responsibility on his shoulders to lift the team from a precarious position with his fighting knock which helped the home team to claw back into the game to some extent.
Clarke captalised on a dropped chance at his individual score of 12. He charged down the pitch to left-arm spinner Paul Harris, did not get the elevation but was fortunate to stay as Makhaya Ntini failed to pouch the chance.
Clarke struck nine fours in his 151-ball knock and was holding the fort with pace spearhead Mitchell Johnson (17) when stumps were drawn for the day.