Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Perth, 2nd day December 1, 2012

Smith, Amla help South Africa sprint away from Australia


South Africa 225 and 2 for 230 (Amla 99*, Smith 84) lead Australia 163 (Wade 68, Hastings 32, Steyn 4-40, Peterson 3-44) by 292 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

When the critical moment of the series arrived, South Africa grabbed it with a ruthlessness entirely befitting the world's No. 1 team. On the day they had hoped for a valedictory Perth century from Ricky Ponting to capitalise on a strong opening to the match, Australia were instead dismantled with the bat and run ragged in the field. Hurried along at a cracking pace by Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith, South Africa's lead is already a vast 292 runs.

Dale Steyn joined Smith and Amla in turning in a command performance, and the hosts' response was limp, with only the isolated batting resistance of Matthew Wade and a pair of startling catches standing out amid mediocre batting and worse bowling. Ponting's rapid exit was a sombre subplot as South Africa's bowlers clambered all over Australia's batsmen, and Michael Clarke's team were simply overwhelmed in the final session by the poise and aggression of Amla and Smith. Much like Steyn, they identified the time to strike with fearful precision.

United when Alviro Petersen fell shortly after tea to Mitchell Johnson's thrilling return catch, Smith and Amla tucked into poor spells from John Hastings and Mitchell Starc in particular. While Smith enjoyed a series of deliveries directed heedlessly at his pads, Amla toyed with Australia's bowling and fielding placings by moving across the crease with impunity to flick to the legside or drive handsomely through the off. He finished the day only a run shy of a century in the final session.

Smith too deserved a century, but was thwarted in his quest by a hook he did not quite control and another stunning catch, this time by Nathan Lyon. Whatever succour Australia took from this moment was to be greatly reduced when Lyon appeared to lose his footing and spilled a simpler chance offered by Jacques Kallis shortly after - the drop more representative of the hosts' foggy approach to the evening's play, which completed perhaps their worst day's cricket at home since Clarke became captain.

It was almost as though Australia's players had been overcome by melancholy at the events of the morning. Granted an opening by David Warner's poor stroke to Dale Steyn's first ball of the day, the visitors produced bowling of the highest quality on a WACA ground pitch that had quickened overnight to rumble the hosts for 163.

Quieter than usual for most of this series, Steyn pounced on what may come to be remembered as this series' most pivotal day, moving the ball at high pace and conjuring arguably the ball of the series to find the outside edge of Australia's captain and batting cornerstone Clarke. Vernon Philander contributed the wicket of Ponting, his skidding trajectory winning a second lbw of the innings on a surface not lending itself to such dismissals with its steep bounce.

Robin Peterson extracted a measure of revenge for a pair of earlier sixes by defeating Wade after lunch, and the left-arm spinner added the wickets of Mitchell Johnson and Hastings to round up the innings and more than justify his selection.

Resuming at 2 for 33, Warner and the nightwatchman Lyon were charged with setting a foundation for Ponting and others. Warner kicked his commission away however with a flat-footed swish at his first sight of Steyn, an edge clearly audible though the opener compounded his error by calling haltingly for a review. With no strongly contradicting evidence available on replays, Richard Kettleborough's finger was raised a second time.

Ponting nearly shovelled his first ball to midwicket, but found a sharp single to get off the mark in his penultimate Test innings. That brought Lyon on strike to face Steyn, and first ball he was turned around by a well-pitched outswinger and the snick was held in the gully.

Willed on by a capacity crowd and countless television watchers, Ponting swivelled into one pull shot from Philander, the stroke looking attractive but not timed with the precision of his younger days. It was to be his only signature moment, as Philander whirred one down the line of middle and off to pin Ponting lbw. For what seemed reasons as much emotional as tactical, Clarke unwisely allowed Ponting to refer the decision, which confirmed the right call had been made, thus stripping the hosts of their remaining review.

Dominant as he has been this year, an outstanding delivery was required to dismiss Clarke, and Steyn duly provided it. Angling into the stumps before bending away treacherously late, Clarke did well to edge it, and South Africa rejoiced Australia's punch-drunk tally of 6 for 45. Wade and Hussey resisted for a time, the wicketkeeper taking the attacker's role while the senior batsman tried to weather a hostile spell from Morne Morkel.

Wade's innings showed that runs could most certainly be scored, but he lost Hussey not long before lunch as he pushed indeterminately at a Morkel delivery from around the wicket and presented a slips catch to Smith. Hastings fought out the remaining minutes of the morning, and after lunch gave Wade some stout company.

The stand was worth 40 when Wade miscalculated against Peterson, ending an innings that might have tilted the match had it been allowed to continue for another hour. Johnson's defeat was the result of subtle variations in flight from Peterson and a not-so-subtle response from the batsman, while Hastings was last out when Petersen took a steepling chance and then regathered it after stepping momentarily over the boundary rope at long off.

The opening overs of South Africa's innings featured a couple of nervy moments for Smith in particular, but all 10 wickets remained intact when tea was called. Alviro Petersen would be lost shortly after the resumption when he popped up a bouncer off glove or bat handle that Johnson did wonderfully well to catch after an athletic chase and dive, but the rest was to be a procession. South Africa are not quite hoisting the ICC's Test Championship mace yet, but after this day's domination they may as well be.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 2, 2012, 7:03 GMT

    We weren't good enough in the first two tests and fella part in this test match! If Australia wants to regain top spot it must do better than this effort! They must become tougher and be prepared to fight harder for success!

  • Vikesh on December 2, 2012, 6:12 GMT

    I think SA have to make 600 plus to bat AUS out the game. Being Ponting last game i would really like to see AUS show some fight. I have to say he has been one of the greats.I think Aus would go for a win regardless of the score SA post as the chance to be no 1 in the world wont come thier way soon. The game is setup for a great finish either way. Top shelf again by amazing Amla and Smith. They negated the seam movement by using their feet effectively.

  • Tom on December 2, 2012, 5:40 GMT

    @Marcio well i was directing my criticisms more at AUS's long term problems rather than this series in particular. The previous matches were characterised by flatter pitches which were tough work for the bowlers. the success AUS had in those matches (eg 480 in a day) were set up by only a couple of batsmen -clarke, hussey. we've been completely reliant on those two batsmen for the past 1-2 years, and you can't expect them to perform every single innings. the centuries by cowen/warner were nice but they don't contribute anywhere near as consistently as they should, which is why AUS often ends up with massive collapses. Perth in contrast is an excellent bowling pitch, and both our batsmen and bowlers were undone in the face of that. I don't get to see SA play all that much, so I can't really comment, but by the looks of it yeah they're not a SUPER batting team either and have their issues. But their quality bowling is what really sets them apart.

  • Marcio on December 2, 2012, 5:01 GMT

    @ broken_chairs, "this had to happen. It really highlights Australia's 2 huge problems - a ridiculously brittle top order and an impotent bowling attack." So, when Sa were getting carted around the fiield a little over a week ago, going for 480 runs in a day, was it "inevitable"? Brittle batsmen? When SA were 6/60 in the first innings here, and 4/70 after 80 overs in Adelaide, was it a "ridiculously brittle top order"? The only logical conclusion, taking the series as a whole, is that SA's bowlers and batsmen are just as brittle. A couple of good days at the end of a series where you were well behind almost all the way, does not define the team's performance, nor does two bad days define Australia's. Remember, Faf was given out twice early in his innings in Adelaide, one DRS showing the seam pitching just 2mm outside leg when he was on 37, 40% of the ball over. That is how close AUS came to winning this series. 2mm. AUS played some superb cricket, and 1-1 would have been a fair result.

  • SIva on December 2, 2012, 3:56 GMT

    Sack the Aussie bowling coach. What is he doing? Very impressed with Alan Donald's work; watching the game, talking on one way to cricket analyst and passing tips to the bowlers, and talk to bowlers at the boundary line. When Mcedormett used to coach we to see him. Who is the Aussie bowling coach these days?

  • Basil on December 2, 2012, 3:40 GMT

    Now you why SA is No. 1 super bowlng; great batting and excellent team performance

  • Rajaram on December 2, 2012, 3:26 GMT

    I cannot understand Michael Clarke's bowling changes when Smith and Amla were on the rampage. He should have slowed down the game by bowling himself, Warner and Lyon. He should brought Shane Watson on - he has excellent figures of 5 - 2 - 17 - 0. What is the big idea of keeping Shane Watson wrapped up in cotton wool,just because he has to bat at Number 3, when all along you say he HAS to play as an all -rounder? Watson is a wicket - taker, a partnership breaker. Unlike John Hastings who has hit the wall.

  • Dummy4 on December 2, 2012, 3:01 GMT

    Amla is probably the most watchable batsman in international cricket today because his grace and elegance and his calmness at the wicket As a neutral I was willing him to get that century in that last session.

    It was unfortunatete that Smith gave his wicket away when close of stumps was fast approaching. Kallis set about getting a feel of the wicket by playing defensively and inevitably Amla was starved of the strike within touching distance of a brilliant century. It was very frustrating and it got to Amla. He played two injudicious strokes and was lucky to survive. I am looking forward to watch him bat for a long time.

  • Dummy4 on December 2, 2012, 2:35 GMT

    I notice some biased comments by South African supporters asserting that the Aussie curators deliberately prepared flat pitches in Brisbane and Adelaide to negate the South African pace attack. Well, in other words, are they saying Steyn, Philander and Morkel can only bowl on greentops??? Warne and McGrath on the other hand were able to succeed on all kinds of pitches and test all batsmen to the nth degree on any surface. Flat pitches are as much part of the game as greentops and middle of the road pitches, and in any case, the Aussie bowers had to deal with these flat pitches in Brisbane ans Adelaide as well.

  • R on December 2, 2012, 2:24 GMT

    the crowd won't be confusing lyon with ponting again... lyon is the bloke who guts it out, has the ability to hang around for his team and scores some runs..... and doesn't selfishly use up reviews when he's absolutely plumb...

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