Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 3rd day November 24, 2012

South Africa fight, but still face hefty chase

Australia 550 and 5 for 111 (Warner 41, Kleinveldt 3-14) lead South Africa 388 (Smith 122, du Plessis 78, Kallis 58, Hilfenhaus 3-49) by 273 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Plenty of things went right for South Africa on the third day in Adelaide. Faf du Plessis made an impressive 78 on debut, Jacques Kallis shrugged off the pain of his injured hamstring to score a fighting fifty, and Rory Kleinveldt took three quick wickets late in the day to rattle Australia's top order. But when stumps rolled around, one unavoidable fact remained: South Africa were going to need to complete the biggest Adelaide Oval chase in 110 years - and possibly of all time - to take a 1-0 lead in the series.

Adelaide might be renowned as a batting paradise but the way the surface can break up on the fourth and fifth days can make run-scoring difficult. The biggest successful chase in Adelaide Oval Tests was 315, scored by Joe Darling's Australians in 1902, and by stumps on Saturday, Michael Clarke's side already led by 273. Clarke was at the crease on 9 and Michael Hussey was on 5, and the score had moved on to 5 for 111 thanks largely to a solid opening stand from David Warner and Ed Cowan.

But if any team knows about hefty pursuits it is Graeme Smith's outfit. Four years ago, they chased down 414 at the WACA, with only four wickets down, and six members of that side are also playing in Adelaide. They can also take heart from the fact that James Pattinson is almost certain not to bowl in the fourth innings after being sent for scans to assess pain that he felt in his left side early on the third day. Kallis can bat injured, but Pattinson won't be much good with the ball.

The Australians will hope for the same kind of bowling success that Kleinveldt and his colleagues enjoyed on the third afternoon. Cowan and Warner put on 77 for the opening wicket and Warner was enjoying the chance to thrash boundaries off Imran Tahir's legspin when Kleinveldt ended the party. He drew a leading edge from Warner, who was caught at cover for 41, and two balls later Rob Quiney's Test future was placed in serious jeopardy when he edged behind for a duck, an almost identical dismissal to the first innings.

Kleinveldt also got rid of Cowan, who on 29 played on to leave Australia at 3 for 91 and Tahir relieved after he should have had Cowan earlier in the innings. Cowan had been caught at cover off a leading edge and Tahir celebrated what he thought was his first wicket of the game, but replays confirmed what the umpire suspected - he had over-stepped, an unforgivable error for a slow bowler, and Cowan was briefly reprieved.

The wickets kept coming as stumps approached. Ricky Ponting played on to Dale Steyn for 16 and the nightwatchman Peter Siddle lasted 16 deliveries for his 1 before he edged behind off Morne Morkel. The South Africans were pumped up. They sensed the momentum shifting, and stumps could not come soon enough for the Australians. At least they knew that their efforts in the first innings had given them the advantage.

Australia's lead might have been much bigger were it not for the determination shown by Kallis and du Plessis. They combined for a 93-run partnership for the eighth wicket that held Australia up significantly. Kallis, who injured his hamstring early on the first day, batted at No.9 and was hampered in his range of movement and running between the wickets, but remarkably toughed it out and picked up most of his runs through boundaries.

Kallis struck ten fours and a six, pulling, cutting and driving despite the pain in his leg. He reached 58 from 93 deliveries before he was finally dismissed, caught attempting a sweep off the bowling of Clarke. The umpire Billy Bowden gave Kallis not out but Clarke was convinced by the catcher Matthew Wade to ask for a review and the replay showed the ball clearly deflecting off the batsman's glove before lobbing up to the wicketkeeper.

That left du Plessis with only the final two batsmen for company but, as he had during the first part of his innings, he showed excellent composure and lifted the scoring tempo with a series of well-timed lofted strokes, down the ground and over cover. He lost Morne Morkel, who was bowled around his legs by Nathan Lyon, and when du Plessis chipped a catch to short mid-on off the bowling of Hilfenhaus for 78, the South Africans were all out for 388 on the stroke of tea.

Ever since he walked to the crease, du Plessis had looked like a Test batsman. He showed a solid defence and was able to work the ball with strength through the gaps on the leg side. His half-century came up from from his 124th delivery, with a single pushed through mid-on, and his performance will give the selectors something to think about when their batting line-up is back to full fitness.

In the first session, South Africa had struggled and added only 56 runs for the loss of five wickets. Siddle provided the spark Australia needed by getting rid of Smith, who added only 11 to his overnight score and was caught behind for 122. Smith was given out by the umpire Billy Bowden and immediately asked for a review; Hot Spot showed a faint mark that supported Bowden's decision but Smith was clearly unhappy with the outcome.

Siddle also removed AB de Villiers, who on 1 was struck dead in line and saw Bowden's finger being raised almost before the Australians appealed. Out of hope more than anything, de Villiers also asked for a review but there was no reprieve. Kallis did not walk to the wicket at No.7 as expected, and instead the South Africans sent Steyn and Kleinveldt in ahead of him.

Neither man had any lasting impact, though, Steyn caught at slip for 1 when Hilfenhaus curved a ball away and Kleinveldt comprehensively losing his off stump, out for a duck when he tried to thump Hilfenhaus through the leg side. It completed a very successful period for Australia in which they had collected 5 for 17, beginning with the dismissal of Jacques Rudolph, who added only four to his score.

On 29, Rudolph was enticed by an excellent delivery from Lyon, whose flight and drop meant Rudolph's drive flew straight to Quiney at cover. It was the perfect start for Australia, whose bowlers had struggled on the second day. By stumps, the question was how they would cope on the final two days without Pattinson, who pulled up injured bowling his second over of the day. Clarke will need plenty from his remaining bowlers, because as he knows all too well, the South Africans don't mind a big chase.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here