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

Amla and de Villiers set target of 632


Australia 163 and 0 for 40 need another 592 runs to beat South Africa 225 and 569 (Amla 196, de Villiers 169, Starc 6-154)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Two days remain in this match, and two possibilities. The first, by far the most likely, is a convincing South African victory, set-up by the sparkling innings of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers and finished off by Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.

The second, still too outlandish to contemplate, is Australia finding a way to bat for long enough to reach a winning target of 632. David Warner and Ed Cowan made a sound enough start on the third evening to reach 0 for 40 by the close, but in terms of the task ahead they have barely reached base camp at the foot of Everest.

Amla and de Villiers provided a rich day's batting entertainment at the WACA ground, both falling short of double centuries but delighting spectators with their marriage of aggression and invention. De Villiers' century was particularly notable as his first while also carrying the wicketkeeper's gloves, opening the path to an extended stint in the dual role.

Australia's bowling was made to look ordinary in the extreme at times before Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson found some heat in the early evening to polish off the South African tail. In all the visitors' innings lasted just 111.5 overs, the runs arriving at more than five per six balls, and its speed has left plenty of time for Australia's batsmen to negotiate. The pitch is still playing very well and the outfield extremely fast, but the visiting bowlers are refreshed and focused on the goal of wrapping up the match, the series and the ICC's No. 1 ranking.

Cowan and Warner began the pursuit with unhappy first innings memories; Cowan's of a golden duck, Warner's an unwise waft at Steyn that pinpointed the start of Australia's sharp second day slide from a promising position to a dire one. They fought out the closing overs in characteristic fashion, Warner hitting boundaries both certain and uncertain, Cowan watching the ball intently and surviving an exquisitely probing first spell by Philander.

There was some tension evident on South Africa's side when Cowan twice pulled away from the bowler, citing flies around his helmet. He exchanged words with the visiting captain Graeme Smith before a can of Aeroguard was called for. So far the Australian openers' stand has been merely a nuisance, but their survival placed a slightly different slant on a day that had been a South African waltz for most of its duration.

Resuming with a lead of 292, South Africa rose to salute Amla when he flicked Johnson to fine leg for his 18th Test century, a stroke representative of his legside mastery. Amla's movement across outside off stump to play to leg was exaggerated at times, but apart from the sliced drive from Johnsons' wide ball that just eluded Michael Hussey's reach he was seldom troubled.

Kallis rumbled along comfortably enough himself until Michael Clarke swung Starc around to the Prindiville Stand end, teasing out a top-edged hook shot that Johnson held well at fine leg, the ball dying into the breeze late in its path. De Villiers took his time to get established but accompanied Amla to the interval with an enormous amount of time left to stretch Australia's eventual target.

There was acceleration on resumption, de Villiers advancing to ping Nathan Lyon down the ground for a straight six, while Amla took advantage of Hussey's introduction with a pair of boundaries. Clarke responded to the calls of the WACA crowd by handing Ricky Ponting a bowl for the final over before the second new ball became due.

Given how Starc and John Hastings started with it Clarke might have been better off keeping Ponting on, as de Viliers and Amla attacked with impunity. It took Johnson's introduction to draw a few false strokes, and ultimately a wicket when Amla blocked a drive back to see the chance snaffled by Johnson's outstretched right hand.

Dean Elgar wore a sharp blow on the elbow before playing inside a fuller delivery to be pinned LBW - though this did not stop him from seeking an imprudent review in the manner of Ponting the day before. Two wickets in an over did little to unsettle de Villiers though, and the three reverse-swept boundaries to go to three figures summed up the marriage of skill and invention he has used so well as a batsman and now a wicketkeeper also.

After tea the runs arrived in a torrent, de Villiers taking progressively more liberties and Faf du Plessis showing the penchant for shots as well as forward defensives. Their concentration was broken when Clarke called for a highly speculative LBW referral against de Villiers, the break in rhythm proving more helpful than the video evidence. Johnson broke the stand next ball with a swift delivery going across du Plessis, and the final five wickets melted away for 31 runs. Whether that is of any consequence for South Africa will not be known until tomorrow.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • David on December 3, 2012, 8:50 GMT


    Marcio on (December 03 2012, 01:07 AM GMT) There will almost certainly be plenty of runs scored today. It's only day 4 and batting conditions are perfect for Australian players….I would expect them to post close to 400 as a par score in these conditions.

    __PK on (December 02 2012, 20:59 PM GMT) Anyone remember Warner's innings in the corresponding test last year?... I'm expecting another one of those on Day 4.

    electric_loco_WAP4 on (December 02 2012, 11:53 AM GMT) the conditions can't be better for Warner ... 'virtually' no spin test -R Peterson....really??-...With Clarke due for his customary big score ... Punter even more…Wade (Ponting c Kallis b Petersen, Clarke st de Villiers b Petersen, Wade c Smith b Petersen)

    Adam Grech on (December 02 2012, 10:12 AM GMT) Setting a total of 630 odd just shows what an unsporting captain Graeme Smith is. He has the best bowling attack ... shows little confidence in bowling Australia out.


  • Mike on December 3, 2012, 4:30 GMT

    Top sides can play below their best and still nail the series SA are going to be numero uno for a while. Talk of aussies winning is hilarious ! Deluded. Just accept you are just a decent side but with lots of weak points. Still Clarke has been superb and they have a few decent quicks. But no spinners is not good enough SA have Robin Pietersen who imo is underrated and when you have the seam attack they do you can get away without a great spinner most the time but as I say Robin Pieterson is useful. Lyon is hopeless. And give SA credit for getting a draw in 2nd test that was guts and a fair result. Sore losers some aussies how surprising hey. They have improved a bit but England are superior and will win the ashes perhaps one will be a drawn series but that is good enough. Just accept you lost to a team who were not at their best, SA played better in England. But as I say good sides win even when not playing at their best for most the series.

  • Merv on December 3, 2012, 4:21 GMT

    One has to wonder why on earth Hastings was ever put in the team. He came from nowhere. An honest ODI medium pace trundler straight into the Test team. What were they thinking? He was accurate but had no penetration at all. Johnson on the other hand was great and really troubled the batsmen. Starc came back after being flogged and he will learn.

    This series should have been over already, if not for rain in Brisbane and a tiny bit of luck in Adelaide.... Australia have been the better side so far, but certainly not in this third match. A 5 test series would have been very interesting.

  • Dave on December 3, 2012, 2:59 GMT

    South Africa has stood up and shown why they're the best - for two tests they've been on the back foot under real pressure, but not caved. Now, they're on the verge of a crushing win on which, I think, they will deliver. This is a test for Australian fans to show whether they really like quality cricket being played, or just winning. Time to show a bit of character!

  • Edward T on December 3, 2012, 2:43 GMT

    Bye bye Warner - back to that T20 crap for you. The top six for the first Test against the Lankans should be Watson, Cowan, Khawaja, Doolan, Clarke and Hussey.

  • Marcio on December 3, 2012, 2:16 GMT

    @SCC08, SA haven't even scored at the highest run rate in the last two weeks. Australia scored at almost six an over just last game in compiling 480 in a day where SA's bowling rate was super slow. So, good as SA's effort was, Australia's run rate was considerably better and it didn't drop to 2.5 runs in a session as SA's did in the morning session.

  • Brett on December 3, 2012, 2:03 GMT

    This would be a effort for the ages to either win or draw for the Aussies. To draw we would have to face about 195 overs which means every batsman excluding the number 11 will have to face a min of 117 balls and to win each would have to score a min of 64. The weather may yet come to the rescue as there is a high likelihood of rain tomorrow but we still need to survive the day with at least 5 wickets in hand. Oh for one last hurrah from Pinter and the customary heroics of Clarkie and Huss. Don't give up boys and provide us a priceless memory !!!!!

  • Rajaram on December 3, 2012, 1:49 GMT

    If there is ONE Team that can chase 632 to win,it is Australia. We NEVER GIVE UP.

  • David on December 3, 2012, 1:33 GMT

    @ LockyerValley on (Dec 02 2012, 11:12 AM GMT) Oz suffered terrible luck "having to bat during bowling conditions & bowl during batting conditions" is a joke, right? SA batted 1st & lasted 74 overs. cricinfo commentary said "There was some help for the bowlers early on, but it is still not a wicket where you get bowled out for 225 on day one.." Oz bat 10 mins later. The track has worn & offers less help. Cowan out 3rd ball - the 1st he faces. Watson out 28 balls later. Next morning, 2nd over, Warner gone 1st ball from Steyn. 3 balls later Lyon goes. Ponting faces 5, Clarke faces 2. Oz are 45/6. What happened? The grass grew up overnight? No cloud, warm & sunny, & no breeze yet! Oz post 163 in 53.1 overs. 10 mins later SA bat - same conditions. 37 overs later they are 230/2, SR over 7. CONDITIONS DID NOT CHANGE. Stop blaming "conditions" and "luck," & face reality. SA dominated this game like Oz did before. Quit whining, it's pathetic. You sound like Marcio, & that is seriously sad.

  • Marcio on December 3, 2012, 1:07 GMT

    There will almost certainly be plenty of runs scored today. It's only day 4 and batting conditions are perfect for Australian players. The batting line-up is long, so I would expect them to post close to 400 as a par score in these conditions. Once again the key is the first hour/session. If AUS get through that with no more than 1 wicket down, it will be a very, very long day for the SA bowlers. SA lack quality spin options, and Peterson will get punished if he strays at all. Of course SA will win this 95% of the time, but I give AUS a 5% chance, simply because of the batting conditions. And we have seen AUS dominate the SA bowling for long stretches of this series so far. One bad innings does not define Australia's batting any more than SA's bad 1st dig did. I expect SA will turn up overly confident. It's been a recurring problem for them, & 2 good days doesn't change that.

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