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Feb 22, 2014
After losing the first Test, South Africa have come back in this Test like a truly proud No 1 team, who mean business. They did have a topsy-turvy first day, but since then, the next two days have completely belonged to them. After setting the rather huge first innings total of 423, courtesy centuries from AB de Villiers and JP Duminy, their bowlers came to the party and skittled out Australia for just 246 in their first innings.
Australia were already reeling at 112 for the loss of four wickets at the start of Day Three, and the South African pacers just started off from where they left off last day. Vernon Philander struck the first blow of the morning as he dismissed the set and dangerous David Warner early in the day. Morne Morkel soon removed the nightwatchman Nathan Lyon as well. Except for Steven Smith (49), who showed some fight and resistance, none of the Australians could spend enough time in the middle to reach closer to South Africa’s first innings total.
Eventually, in the post-lunch session, they were bowled out for 246, which meant South Africa entered their second innings with a huge 177-run lead. But South Africa lost their captain, Graeme Smith early again to Mitchell Johnson, who took apart the southpaw’s leg stump round his legs.
Smith’s opening partner, Dean Elgar too couldn’t carry his first innings form to the second, as he fell for just 16 to Peter Siddle. But then, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis took the attack to the Australians. While du Plessis kept rotating the strike, Amla played some of the most gorgeous drives you may have seen in recent times. He played all around the wicket, as South Africa scored at almost 4.5 runs an over.
Amla brought up his 28th Test fifty in just 52 balls, but du Plessis didn’t last long as he got another unplayable delivery in this series from Siddle, which gently took the edge and presented itself to Brad Haddin.
The first innings centurion, de Villiers then joined Amla in the middle, and de Villiers partnered him in the rampage. He played drives in such nonchalant fashion that even Michael Holding had to say on air, “He is making it look ridiculously easy.”
But de Villiers’s brief knock came to an end as he miscued an uppercut off Johnson’s bowling to hand Haddin a simple catch.
Amla was then joined by debutant Quinton de Kock, whose nerves were there for everyone to see early on. But Amla kept him off strike against Johnson whenever possible till de Kock grew in confidence.
South Africa are placed brilliantly to bat aggressively for an hour or two on Day Four morning, which can put them in a commanding position, and then they can unleash their bowlers for having another go at the Australian batsmen. This Test match, at this position is for South Africa to draw or lose.
South Africa 423 and 192 for 4 (Hashim Amla 93*, AB de Villiers 29; Mitchell Johnson 2 for 48) lead Australia 246 (David Warner 70, Steven Smith 49; Morne Morkel 3 for 63) by 369 runs.
Also on cricketcountry.com