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Twenty20 loss irrelevant

Australia won the public relations battle but lost the fight in a two-run Twenty20 defeat by South Africa early yesterday, which was quickly shrugged off by skipper Ricky Ponting.

Australia won the public relations battle but lost the fight in a two-run Twenty20 defeat by South Africa early yesterday, which was quickly shrugged off by skipper Ricky Ponting.

Ponting's men arrived at the infamous Wanderers ground wary of possible crowd trouble after volatile South African fans had been inflamed by months of crowd dramas in Australia.

But the ground known as the Bullring stayed sane. Fans bashed their fists against the perspex-covered players race to intimidate the Australians and there was plenty of booing and hissing.

Nothing out of the ordinary.

Perhaps it was the two-hour rain delay or the scantily-clad podium dancing girls who sidetracked the troublemakers, but Ponting had no reason for complaint.

"I don't think there was anything out of the ordinary out there than what you're used to when you tour any country," he said.

"I know that they're going to be there supporting South Africa as strongly as they can. That's what we expect and we've just got to get on with it."

The Proteas took the first points on tour as they belted 4-201, with skipper Graeme Smith bounding back to form with an unbeaten 89 from 58 balls of mayhem.

Australia replied with 7-199, falling just short through a plucky stand of 57 between Brad Hogg (41) and Brett Lee (43no) for the seventh wicket.

It needed 19 runs off the final over and almost got them as Lee swatted 16, including a giant but futile six on the last ball of the match.

Victory was sweet for Smith after an ill-fated trip to Australia, where his captaincy credentials and batting came under serious scrutiny.

"I think it'll give us a lot of confidence and there's a good feeling in the dressingroom," he said.

But Ponting insisted neither side gained much from the game, in which Australia was without Andrew Symonds (thigh strain) and Mike Hussey, who recently arrived from the birth of his son.

"I don't think there's too much to gain either way out of this game. Even if we'd won really comfortably, I would've been sitting here saying we hadn't got much out of it," Ponting said.

A positive to emerge for Australia was the bowling of lesser lights Mick Lewis (2-31 off four overs) and Stuart Clark (0-25 off four).

Both pace bowlers kept a cool head under pressure as the Proteas flayed the ball to all parts of the small Johannesburg ground.

Australia is now focusing on today's opening one-day series match at Centurion, where it is almost certain both Symonds and Hussey will return.

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