Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Perth

Australia ahead after bowlers' day

Daniel Brettig

November 30, 2012

Comments: 127 | Text size: A | A

Australia 2 for 33 trail South Africa 225 (Du Plessis 78*, Lyon 3-41) by 192 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details


Mitchell Starc struck twice just prior to lunch, Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Perth, 1st day, November 30, 2012
Mitchell Starc improved greatly in his second spell, finding the perfect length and just enough swing a few minutes before lunch © Getty Images
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Though Perth is three hours behind the rest of Australia, the nature of the WACA ground pitch is to encourage a match in fast forward, and so it was again. A dramatically recast Australian team rued Faf du Plessis' composure for the second time in the space of four days as South Africa scrambled to 225 then snipped the top off Australia's batting order on day one of the third Test.

Twelve wickets fell for 257 runs, but with enough evidence between several rushes of wickets to suggest that batsmen will prosper at some point during the match. Du Plessis' exemplary, unbeaten 78 was compiled after he came to the wicket amidst the fall of 5 for 14 either side of lunch. It granted South Africa some sort of total to bowl at, enough for Dale Steyn and the fit-again Vernon Philander to nip out Ed Cowan and Shane Watson before the ball had lost its shine.

The WACA ground rose mistakenly to laud Ricky Ponting at the fall of Watson's wicket, but it was the nightwatchman Nathan Lyon who walked out instead. He did Ponting a major good turn in the 37-year-old's final Test by accompanying a somewhat jumpy David Warner to the close at 2 for 33.

Aside from the aforementioned period of frenzy, Australia found breakthroughs difficult to extract on a bouncy but true surface. The Australia bowlers shared the spoils, Mitchell Starc perhaps the pick with a pair of late inswingers to bowl Alviro Petersen and Jacques Kallis in the closing minutes of the morning session. Lyon vindicated his inclusion with 3 for 41, the debutant John Hastings and vice-captain Shane Watson contributed important wickets, while Mitchell Johnson claimed two of his own and intimidated at times with well-directed short balls.

Lacking James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus due to their Adelaide exertions, Starc and Johnson were recalled while Hastings made his debut as the into-the-wind trundler so often favoured at the WACA ground.

Having been 12th man in Brisbane and Adelaide, Starc found himself taking the new ball at the start of the Test. There was some early swing for him and Petersen was given out lbw by the umpire Richard Kettleborough when one delivery curled back into the opener's pads, but a review had the ball passing high and wide of the stumps.

That ball was not representative of the opening spells for either Starc nor Hastings, who both erred on the short side to give plenty of sighters to Petersen and Smith. Clarke called on Watson at first change and followed up with Johnson at the other end, and their spells signalled a change in the morning. Watson found a little movement either way and bowled a far better length, rewarded when Smith pushed out at ball going across him and edged to Clarke at slip.

Smart stats

  • Faf du Plessis has become the first batsman to score more than 70 in each of his first three Test innings. The batsman who got nearest to achieving it was Australia's Herbie Collins, who scored 70, 104 and 64 in his first three. Andrew Strauss was close too, with scores of 112, 83 and 62.
  • This is the third successive instance of the team batting first scoring less than 300 in a Perth Test, following India's 161 earlier this year and Australia's 268 in the 2010 Ashes.
  • Dean Elgar has become the first South Africa top-order batsman (batting in the top 7) to score a duck on Test debut since Gerhardus Liebenberg in 1998.
  • In nine Tests when AB de Villiers has played as wicketkeeper, he has an average of 29.23 with a strike rate of 39.62 and one half-century in 15 innings. When he doesn't keep wicket, he averages 50.42 at a strike rate of 55.01.
  • Nathan Lyon's 3 for 41 are the third-best figures by an Australia spinner in the first innings of a Perth Test, after Bruce Yardley's 5 for 107 in 1982 and Shane Warne's 4 for 83 in 1997.

Johnson produced some nasty deliveries to Smith and some compelling ones to Amla, beating the No. 3 for pace and length on more than one occasion. Having been given a firm idea of how to bowl by two more experienced WACA ground exponents, Starc improved greatly in his second spell. A few minutes before lunch he found the perfect length and just enough swing to burst through Petersen's drive, and in the next over produced a near identical delivery to do the same to Kallis.

South Africa thus ended the session in far worse shape than they had seemed likely to for most of its duration. Starc had learned quickly, helped by the examples of Watson and Johnson. On resumption Hastings commenced an excellent spell up-wind, finding useful outswing in addition to sharp bounce.

Amla was fortunate when he flicked Hastings straight to midwicket in the first over, Ed Cowan dropping a simple chance, but in the next he was caught somewhat short of the appropriate gear when de Villiers called a quick single - David Warner's direct hit found Amla short and saved Cowan the blushes. Unnerved by the run-out, de Villiers walked into a delectable, swerving ball from Hastings in the next over and edged to Clarke at slip.

Elgar's first appearance at a Test batting crease was not pretty - Johnson worked him around the crease with a hostile spell - and he completed a 12-ball duck by gloving a short ball tamely to Wade when trying to hook. The first ball Peterson faced was full, fast and far too quick for him, but it narrowly missed off stump.

Slowly du Plessis and Peterson regathered somewhat less shaky ground, punching the ball through the field and taking advantage of Perth's typically quick outfield. De Plessis eluded a concerted lbw appeal and referral by Watson when ball-tracking had the ball missing leg stump, and the pair had caught a glimpse of tea when Lyon was introduced.

There was evidence of loop, bounce and turn in Lyon's first over, and in his third a shortish ball bounced enough to draw a fatal error from Peterson. Philander contributed another nuisance lower-order innings to follow up, however, advancing to loft Lyon into the crowd at wide long on before he skied to Michael Hussey when attempting a repeat. Lyon had moved around the wicket, and was rewarded further when he claimed the last man Morne Morkel, who had clumped a trio of boundaries from the bowling of Johnson after Steyn played on.

Left with a little under an hour to bat, Warner flashed absentmindedly at Steyn's first delivery. His third angled teasingly across Cowan, who pushed at the line in expectation of some swing, but finding none succeeded only in edging to Kallis at slip for a golden duck. Watson late cut his first ball to the fence, but his tendency to plonk the front pad down the pitch was exploited by Philander, who had the plumbest of lbw decisions bizarrely refused by Asad Rauf. The inevitable review set that call right, and left Lyon to bravely protect Ponting until stumps.

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

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Posted by   on (December 1, 2012, 11:48 GMT)

Whats happened to all the posts? Or have our friends in Australia just gone quiet?

Posted by JG2704 on (December 1, 2012, 9:46 GMT)

@Fikile Keynes Themba Jonas on (November 30 2012, 11:00 AM GMT) Obviously with a bowling attack of SA's calibre anything could happen but so far Australia have mercilessly pummelled the SA attack in 2 of 3 inns and in the other inns they were more going for quick runs. They are 2 wickets down but their 2 key players come in at 5 and 6 so I'd say Aus were still on top

Posted by Meety on (December 1, 2012, 5:12 GMT)

Not sure if my post got thru - but I think I mentioned the Saffas needed to bowl insanely well in the first hour - umm they did! - Doh!

Posted by zenboomerang on (December 1, 2012, 5:03 GMT)

@dogcatcher... Switch on the ABC radio (no breaks), you get great commentary from the likes of Barry Richards & other Saffa's along with our Oz commentators - always a balanced view from both side... Harsha Bhogle is a regular (20 years) for India series & imho is one of the best speakers across all media formats... & if you've got a sense of humor, Skull (Kerry O'Keefe) adds some hilarous moments at times...

Posted by phermon on (December 1, 2012, 4:02 GMT)

This is one cricket is such a funny game and commentators are the most specious of species. Hilarious at 3.00pm EST to read the comments, and could be even funnier later if Wade keeps going.

Posted by   on (December 1, 2012, 2:45 GMT)

Though I'm a hard core Aussie supporter....we've got into the mentality of playing like losers.....losers, can't believe the pathetic standard of cricket

Posted by disco_bob on (December 1, 2012, 1:55 GMT)

@Marcio, no one is bashing the SA's because their supporters certainly aren't and the England supporters want them to win, and the Australians have more class than that.

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (December 1, 2012, 1:18 GMT)

South Africa probably should have declared at 200

Posted by Meety on (December 1, 2012, 1:12 GMT)

@Unomaas on (November 30 2012, 10:33 AM GMT) - typically good natured comment from you, keep it up. IMO - Oz are ahead, but strangely Steyn & co were more consistantly dangerous. Some of that may of had to do with the 20 odd balls Lyon faced? I think the first hour on Day 2 will ALMOST certainly decide the Test match (setting myself up for an epic fail- LOL!). IF Sth Africa take wickets, I would neaarly back them to go on & win - IF Oz get runs & only lose Lyon, we can get a valuable lead by Tea (or parity), & it would be up to Sth Africa's 2nd new ball to turn things around. A lot will depend on whether Petersen can be as EFFECTIVE as Lyon I think! @whofriggincares on (November 30 2012, 10:56 AM GMT) - champagne!

Posted by Rabbito on (December 1, 2012, 0:48 GMT)

ummmmm...@ontheboundary....a team batting first winning by 4 wickets when the follow on target is already avoided???....expain???...you know something i don't?? anyway...carn the aussies!!...how good were those 2 balls by starc??.....stuff hes going to be a good bowler....another 500 of those in your career thanks mitch!!!...

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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