Brilliant Duminy caps stunning revival with 166
JP Duminy's outstanding maiden century provided more evidence for South African claims they are the best side in the world on a day when Australia flopped, fumbled and allowed a stunning recovery that almost certainly ended their chances of winning the series. While the hosts were lifeless, the visitors were inspired by Duminy's fresh 166 in his second Test and Dale Steyn and Paul Harris followed in exceptional and irritating stands that stole the game from Australia.
South Africa started the morning 196 behind with only three wickets - and a wobbly tail - remaining and wanted a miracle to avoid a large deficit in reply to Australia's 394. It came through Duminy and his bowlers as they controlled an under-manned attack and posted a magnificent 459. Even a year ago this sort of charity would have been unthinkable, but the Australians had another long day in the field to consider their revised position in the world order.
Ricky Ponting was missing Brett Lee, who had a sore left foot, but given the way he has bowled during the series it was not as costly as it would have been six months earlier. Most of their pain came from Duminy, but he was joined by the No. 10 Steyn, who gathered an unlikely 76 in a performance that exposed the young attack and rallied South Africa to the point where when they were finally dismissed they owned a 65-run lead.
A day earlier there was the threat of the follow-on, but at stumps they were in charge. Australia survived three overs and picked up four runs, while Matthew Hayden gained a bruise on his chest from Makhaya Ntini.
In a courageous partnership of 180, the third-highest ninth-wicket stand in history, Duminy stayed cool and Steyn battled through the pain of a stinging blow on each hand to frustrate the home side and delight their own. Duminy, 24, continued his amazing start after being a key component in the record-breaking chase in Perth last Sunday.
Duminy looked as nerveless as a veteran such as Graeme Smith or Jacques Kallis while he carefully added to his collection and continued his rapid development. A couple of pull shots went for four off Nathan Hauritz, but it was not really a day for flourishes, and he nudged and scampered towards three figures. He spent half an hour in the 90s - not that the time mattered - and there was relief when he cut Peter Siddle through gully for four, raised both arms and kissed his helmet badge.
His team-mates lined up to cheer as they wondered at the effort that gone into the recovery. Duminy appeared fresh despite staying throughout the day, facing 340 balls and hitting 18 fours, including fine cover drives from Siddle and Mitchell Johnson after his century. A sweep to Hauritz (3 for 98) lobbed to Siddle to extinguish the excellence and Duminy left the ground with people lining up to congratulate him.
Steyn, who could have retired hurt after being struck on the left hand by Johnson, continued to expand on his personal best. His peak came when he hit Johnson for two straight drives for four and mirrored the shot off Siddle to bring up his half-century. His memorable innings, which ended when bowled by Siddle, took 191 balls and included nine fours and the six off Hauritz.
Not only did South Africa add 261 runs on the third day, but they took significant time away from Ponting's team, which needs a victory to level the three-match contest. Ponting is unlikely to be generous with a target following South Africa's pursuit of 414 at the WACA, although he might be left with no option with only six sessions remaining. However, these scenarios rely on Australia's under-pressure order performing strongly.
If the batsmen copy the effort in the field South Africa will own the series by Tuesday. The same attack that was so potent on day two was able to manage only one wicket - the No. 9 Harris - in the first four hours. It was Michael Hussey, the most casual of part-timers, who broke through the 67-run stand that started the revival, with Johnson taking a fine running catch when Harris (39) heaved to deep mid-on.
There were misfields, penalty runs for hitting an unused helmet, overthrows and missed catches, including Ponting dropping Steyn on 32. Poor Hussey could not get within two metres of a Steyn shot that went straight up and followed the path of the sun, and Hauritz spilt a caught-and-bowled.
Siddle finished with 4 for 81, taking a day between his third and fourth wickets, while Johnson was used heavily in gaining 2 for 127 in 39 overs. The inexperienced men tried but were ineffective in dealing with a side that is more talented and committed than its hosts.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo