| Nicky Boje is clean bowled while attempting a sweep off Shane Warne in Melbourne on Wednesday. (AFP)
Melbourne: Australia took charge of the second Test against South Africa Wednesday after Brett Lee and Andrew Symonds gave them a crucial innings lead at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The Australians bowled the Proteas out for 311 to seize a 44-run advantage. They increased that to a 154-run lead with eight wickets intact by close on the third day, putting them in the box seats to take a series lead after the first Perth Test was drawn.
Lee was at his thunderous best with two big wickets Wednesday, including the coveted scalp of Jacques Kallis.
Symonds, whose position in the team is under threat before next week’s final Sydney Test after a poor run of scores, made his mark with a 16-ball spell of three for 7.
At stumps with two days remaining, Australia had advanced to 110 for two with Matthew Hayden on 45 and Brad Hodge 17.
South Africa entered the pivotal third day comfortably placed on 169 for two. But they lost eight wickets for 142 to be all out for 311 just before tea in reply to Australia’s 355.
Lee, bowling with venom, made two big breakthroughs before lunch with the wickets of Kallis and Perth Test hero Jacques Rudolph.
Kallis fell to a brilliant piece of fast bowling for 23. Lee set him with by crunching a short-pitched ball into his helmet and followed up with a yorker to bowl him next ball.
Lee got through Rudolph’s defence just before lunch, bowling him with his first delivery of the second new ball for 13, and finished with three for 92 off 28 overs.
Rudolph had occupied the crease for over seven hours with his unconquered 102 to save South Africa from defeat in last week’s first Test.
Symonds whooped with delight as he removed Mark Boucher (23), Herschelle Gibbs (94) and Shaun Pollock (9) in a terrific spell in the middle session.
The allrounder trapped Boucher leg before wicket and bowled Gibbs off his glove just six short of his 15th Test century. Symonds then secured another leg before decision against Pollock to finish with three for 50 off 20 overs.
Gibbs toiled for 347 minutes and faced 234 balls with 15 boundaries before he was cruelly denied his hundred. He received a standing ovation as he left the arena.
Test cricket’s leading wicket-taker Shane Warne claimed the wicket of Ashwell Prince for the third time in the series, for six, and bowled Nicky Boje for 12 to finish with two for 62 off 21 overs. He now has 653 Test wickets.
Fellow leg-spinner Stuart MacGill wrapped up the Proteas’ innings with the wicket of Andre Nel, lofting a catch to Mike Hussey for 14.
Australia, buoyed by their psychological innings lead and with the Proteas facing the prospect of batting last on the wearing drop-in pitch, began bullishly. Test newcomer Phil Jaques put on 53 for the opening wicket with Hayden before he fell leg before to Nel for 28.
Ricky Ponting finished as Test cricket’s top-scorer of the 2005 calendar year with 1,544 runs at 67.13 after he was leg before to Pollock for 11.
Nel dropped a difficult caught and bowled chance off Hayden when he was on 27, the Proteas’ 11th missed catch in the series.
The South Africans’ last victory in Australia was by five runs 11 years ago in Sydney.