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Graeme Smith found himself in early trouble against Mitchell Johnson in today's first session.

Graeme Smith found himself in early trouble against Mitchell Johnson in today's first session.

Retirement means Ricky Ponting's trademark pull shots will no longer be seen in the international arena after this week's Perth Test.

Retirement means Ricky Ponting's trademark pull shots will no longer be seen in the international arena after this week's Perth Test.

Ricky Ponting's league of fans should definitely get the chance to see him in the thick of the action today...

Ricky Ponting's league of fans should definitely get the chance to see him in the thick of the action today...

Disappointment for Ricky Ponting; joy for Vernon Philander.

Disappointment for Ricky Ponting; joy for Vernon Philander.

LUNCH WRAP: That was clearly South Africa's session. They got rid of the man who could take the game away from them, Warner, plus Watson and the man of the moment Ricky Ponting. Encouragingly for Australia, Michael Clarke hit the first two balls he faced for four. He's made a habit of getting huge scores in 2012 but so hopeless is Australia's position they'd still be well short even if the captain hit another double century. The big question now is whether Australia can see the game into a fifth day.

3.30pm To rub salt into the wounds, that was the last over before lunch. Ponting's wicket came out of the blue. He'd seen off the quicks and Peterson seemed the least threatening of them all. He pitched one up which was too full for Ponting to cut. Befitting the moment, it was a very good catch by Kallis at first slip. That rocketed off the edge to him. Quite a deflating way to end the session. Australia lost three wickets, and the man everyone wanted to get a ton was one of them. At lunch it's Australia 3-110 (Cowan 37, Clarke 8)

3.27pm WICKET! Oh no! Ponting's gone. He's tried to cut Peterson and he's caught at slip. Peterson's jubilant but several Proteas shake Ponting's hand as he walks off. Ponting stops midway to the pavilion, raises bat and helmet and waves to the crowd. A sad moment for Australian cricket. Channel Nine follows him through to the dressing room. Quite fitting that Clarke is the next man in, as if it was a passing of the baton. Australia 3-102

3.25pm A win of sorts for Australia. Morkel off, Peterson on. He doesn't quite have the same punch as the other Proteas. Cowan's eyes have lit up to a short ball which he cuts for four. Lunch only a few minutes away. Australia 2-102 (Cowan 37, Ponting 4)

3.23pm Channel Nine's pulled out a stat. Ponting 81.07 whenever he gets to 20+ as opposed to career mark of 52.05. He's played out a maiden from Steyn. Good bowling and good batting. As Bill Lawry would say, good cricket all round. Australia 2-97 (Cowan 32, Ponting 4)

3.20pm Ponting's been there for over half an hour now. He's answered a few questions so far but the fans stiill have a right to be nervous. He's not quite going yet though he is leaving with a bit more confidence. Can he make it through to lunch? Australia 2-97 (Cowan 32, Ponting 4)

3.15pm Morkel's made his way onto Ricky Ponting's Christmas card list with that effort in the field. Morkel's a tall man and he couldn't quite bend all the way down to stop that ball at long-on, costing his team a boundary. Australia 2-97 (Cowan 32, Ponting 8)

3.12pm Smith's upped the ante. He's bringing back his strike weapon Dale Steyn, and he's given Ponting a ripper first up. He's squared up Ponting with one which pitched on off and deviated ever so slightly away. Australia 2-93 (Cowan 32, Ponting 4)

3.08pm Tough day for those construction workers at the WACA Ground. Australia 2-93 (Cowan 32, Ponting 4)

3.06pm Looks like we're going to get a change of ball here, the other one's not quite round enough. They might find one that's going to swing a bit more. Australia 2-93 (Cowan 32, Ponting 4)

3.03pm Ed Cowan's in a very precarious position here. You don't want to be remembered as the man who runs Ponting out in his last innings. Australia 2-93 (Cowan 32, Ponting 4)

3.01pm Huge ovation for Ponting. He's off the mark with his trademark pull shot. He's picked it up early and pulled that well in front of square. It didn't quite rocket to the rope like it used to but he's opened his account. Australia 2-93 (Cowan 32, Ponting 4)

2.58pm As much as we liked the guard of honour, it would have made for good viewing if they managed to get the men who Ponting's had a blue with over the years - Harbhajan, Gary Pratt, Anil Kumble, the owner of the TV he broke with the errant box in the 2011 World Cup, whoever got him at Bourbon Beefsteak... Australia 2-89 (Cowan 32, Ponting 0)

2.56pm As we predicted, Peterson off but it's not Steyn coming back, it's Vernon Philander. They're going with swing over pace to have a crack at Ponting. They'll have to wait a minute. Cowan's on strike. Australia 2-89 (Cowan 32, Ponting 0)

2.55pm Morkel pitches up outside off stump, and Ponting leaves. Australia 2-89 (Cowan 32, Ponting 0)

2.54pm Here we go. Morkel to Ponting. Australia 2-89 (Cowan 32, Ponting 0)

2.51pm Ponting's survived his first four balls, against Peterson. I wonder how long it will take for Smith to bring back Dale Steyn. Australia 2-88 (Cowan 31, Ponting 0)

2.50pm 1288 - the number of balls it took for Cowan to hit his first six in Test cricket.

2.48pm SIX! Ed Cowan's hit a six! Ed Cowan's hit a six! I don't believe it. Cowan's given that full toss from Peterson the kitchen sink, and it's cleared the rope by about a foot. That's the first six of Cowan's career. Australia 2-88 (Cowan 31, Ponting 0)

2.45pm WICKET! Watson's gone. Morkel's landed one just short of a length, it's straightened and found Watson's outside edge. Smith's taken a safe catch in the cordon. That brings the great Ricky Ponting to the crease. He gets a standing ovation from the fans and the Proteas XI give him a guard of honour. Ponting responds by shaking Smith's hand. Good to see sportsmanship still alive today. Or was it a strategy by South Africa to unsettle Ponting emotionally? Australia 2-81 (Cowan 23, Ponting 0)

2.40pm Cowan didn't give a yelp in that match race against Watson. Watson gave him wind burn sprinting past. Reminds me of some of the nags I've been betting on recently. Watson's up to 24, Cowan on 23. Australia 1-81 (Cowan 23, Watson 24)

2.36pm Not for the first time in his career, Cowan's about to be overtaken by the No.3. Watson's moved up to 20, three behind Cowan on 23. That said, I'd prefer to have Cowan batting for me at the moment. He seems a bit more solid. Australia 1-75 (Cowan 23, Watson 20)

2.30pm That's the first hour finished and drinks are on the field. It's 1-73. What do you reckon Australia will be at lunch? Still one down or will they be two or three down? I'm backing 1-107. As for the stumps score, I'll say 6-357 Australia 1-73 (Cowan 22, Watson 19)

2.28pm 564 left to win. If Imran Tahir was bowling, another 80 overs from him would do it. Peterson's looking a bit more dangerous. Australia 1-68 (Cowan 22, Watson 14)

2.27pm Watson cuts a short and wide one from Morkel to four. Get out shot or good batting? Meanwhile, Mark Nicholas just won't let this footwear fetish go, though it is giving Channel Nine a chance to get some close-ups of Morkel's footwear. Free plug for them at least. Australia 1-68 (Cowan 22, Watson 14)

2.22pm Another moral victory of sorts for Australia. They've seen off both Philander and Steyn. Now to get past Morne Morkel. Australia 1-63 (Cowan 22, Watson 9)

2.18pm Robin Peterson into the attack. Shame it isn't Imran Tahir. Australia 1-62 (Cowan 22, Watson 8)

2.16pm Let's have a look at the bright side of 632. The field will be up so if you can get through the in-field you'll find the rope. Easy runs. Australia 1-62 (Cowan 22, Watson 8)

2.10pm I like Ian Healy's optimism. Put pressure on Morne Morkel's ankle, blunt Dale Steyn, there's no Jacques Kallis and South Africa have been used to having four seamers, the wicket's flat, beautiful conditions for batting... That might all play out, but the target's still 632. Australia 1-58 (Cowan 18, Watson 8)

2.06pm Watson's looking very shaky here. That drive to Steyn was uppish but wide of point. Where was the batsman of two months ago who was dominating attacks around the world, albeit in Twenty20 cricket? Is that all he is - a very good limited-overs batsman who gets found out against quality Test attacks? He can answer a few critics today, or give them more ammo. Australia 1-58 (Cowan 18, Watson 8)

2.02pm Dale Steyn's found Cowan's inside edge a few times, can't quite find his outside edge. Cowan's been leaving the ball very well. There's been a few tight leaves but his stumps are still standing. Australia 1-55 (Cowan 18, Watson 5)

1.55pm These South Africans have brought their own pitch with them. They're getting it to do what Australia's bowler couldn't yesterday - move the ball around. Dale Steyn's getting a few to move to Cowan. He's a wicket waiting to happen but to his credit he's hanging in there like a street fighter. Australia 1-52 (Cowan 15, Watson 5)

1.51pm I was just about to ask why Ed Cowan's batting out of his crease but Tubby beat me to it. He's out there to try and combat the movement off the seam. Does AB de Villiers have it in him to stand up to the stumps to make Cowan do something different? I reckon Mark Boucher would have done it. Australia 1-51 (Cowan 14, Watson 5)

1.47pm Tom Moody's continuing his good start to his Test career on Channel Nine. He's questioning why Ben Hilfenhaus, a genuine swing bowler, was left out for the venue which would most suit his bowling. And if he was unable to back up after Adelaide, why didn't they leave him out for that one instead of here? Tubby and Chappelli agree with him as well. Australia 1-49 (Cowan 13, Watson 5)

1.41pm I wonder how Ricky Ponting's feeling in the sheds at the moment. The way the Proteas have started this morning he must be feeling he'll be in next ball. Australia 1-45 (Cowan 13, Watson 1)

1.38pm I love it when Tubby agrees with me. He reckons Watson is a real lbw candidate - 30% lbw, 18% bowled. Chappelli reckons that's not a great combination for a top-order player.

1.35pm Warner's wicket is huge as he was one guy who could have made the Proteas nervous if he batted for a while today.

1.34pm Not the most promising start by Shane Watson, though he survives. He loves planting that front pad. It's like there's a target sign on it. Problem for him is the Proteas are in the sort of form where they'll hit it. Australia 1-41 (Cowan 9, Watson 1)

1.31pm WICKET! You've got to be kidding!? Second ball of the morning and David Warner's gone without adding to his overnight total of 29 - caught at first slip by Graeme Smith to Vernon Philander. The ideal start for South Africa, and anything but for Australia. Australia 1-40

Andrew Wu here padding up for day four of the third and final Test. Will it be the final day of the match and the series or can Australia force it into day five? And if they can, can they bat themselves into a position where victory is on the horizon? The other big question is what can Ricky Ponting do in his final Test innings? Can he rediscover his best or will his poor run continue?

This story Live cricket scores and commentary first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.