JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Captain Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke shared a century partnership as Australia fought back after a poor start on the first day of the first Test against South Africa at the Wanderers Stadium here on Thursday. Australia were 254 for five when bad light stopped play. Ponting (83) and Clarke (68) put on 113 for the fourth wicket with attacking stroke play after Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel reduced them to 38 for three. Although Ponting and Clarke were out in fairly quick succession, new cap Marcus North (47 not out) and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin (37 not out) put on an unbeaten 72 for the sixth wicket to continue the Australian recovery. Steyn took three for 82 but it was a disappointing day for the South African bowlers in humid, overcast conditions which favoured swing bowling. The South Africans were hampered by a back injury to allrounder Jacques Kallis, who bowled only four overs before leaving the field for two hours. Steyn dismissed both Australian openers cheaply, including new cap Phil Hughes, who was caught behind for a four-ball duck in the first over. Simon Katich fell for three to a diving catch by Neil McKenzie at gully. Morkel followed up with the wicket of Michael Hussey, who was caught by Kallis at second slip for four. Australia could have been in deep trouble shortly before lunch but Ponting, on 40, survived a straightforward chance off Steyn to South African counterpart Graeme Smith at first slip. He hooked the next ball for six. Ponting also survived the first challenge of an umpiring decision in a match played by either side. When Ponting was on 70 he was given not out by umpire Billy Bowden when the South Africans thought he had been caught behind off an inside edge. The home side used one of their potential two unsuccessful challenges but the evidence for television umpire Asad Rauf was inconclusive and Ponting batted on. Ponting was eventually bowled by a full ball from Makhaya Ntini which swung in so sharply that Ponting did not play a shot at it. But by then he and vice-captain Clarke had taken the initiative away from South Africa. Ponting faced 134 balls and hit 11 fours and a six, while Clarke scored his runs off 90 deliveries and hit ten fours before he drove loosely at Steyn and was caught behind. The left-handed North, playing in his first Test at the age of 29, showed good composure. He was surprised by an early bouncer from Steyn, which hit him on the gloves before he had scored, but then played confidently in rapidly deteriorating light. Australia named three new caps, with fast bowler Ben Hilfenhaus joining Hughes and North for the first match of a series which will decide the official International Cricket Council Test championship. It was a nightmare debut for Hughes, who flashed at a ball above head height which he should have left alone. SCOREBOARD AUSTRALIA 1st innings P Hughes c Boucher b Steyn 0 S Katich c McKenzie b Steyn 3 R Ponting b Ntini 83 M Hussey c Kallis b Morkel 4 M Clarke c Boucher b Steyn 68 M North not out 47 B Haddin not out 37 EXTRAS (lb7, nb4, w1) 12 TOTAL (5 wkts, 68 overs) 254 Falls: 1-0 (Hughes), 2-18 (Katich), 3-38 (Hussey), 4-151 (Ponting), 5-182 (Clarke) BOWLING: Steyn 19-2-82-3 (1nb) Ntini 16-4-53-1 Morkel 16-2-65-1 (3nb, 1w) Kallis 4-0-19-0 Harris 11-2-18-0 Duminy 2-0-10-0. To bat: A McDonald, M Johnson, P Siddle, B Hilfenhaus. South Africa: G Smith (capt), N McKenzie, H Amla, J Kallis, A de Villiers, J Duminy, M Boucher (wkt), M Morkel, P Harris, D Steyn, M Ntini. Umpires: B Bowden (NZL), S Bucknor (WIS). TV umpire: Asad Rauf (PAK). Match referee: J Crowe (NZL).