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Australia v South Africa, 1st Test, Perth, 4th day
Ian Chappell: Expect Australia to win
December 20, 2008
Graeme Smith made a good century in spite of his injury and South Africa have set up an exciting final day in Perth
 
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Much will depend on the overnight batsmen, AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis © Getty Images
 

What must be one of the longest days in the history of Test cricket has certainly set up an exciting last day in the first Test match between Australia and South Africa at the WACA.

As has happened right throughout this game, it was another fluctuating day. It was Australia, thanks to Brad Haddin, who looked as though they set a target that was way beyond the capabilities of South Africa. The Australians, mainly through Haddin, attacked South Africa and I think they did that in the knowledge that Graeme Smith will push fieldsmen back pretty quickly. Haddin went on the attack, the field went back and he was able to add some very valuable runs, first with Mitchell Johnson and then with some help from Peter Siddle.

Haddin is proving that, while he might not be an exact replacement for Adam Gilchrist, he is making the Australian public at least think "Well, all is not lost now that Gilchrist has gone". He played a magnificent innings. In the end, he really went after the spinner Paul Harris, he hit two glorious sixes down the ground, hit another boundary, got to 94 and then decided that he was going to go the hero's route and (try) hit a six to bring up his hundred. A clever piece of work by Paul Harris, he went over the wicket rather than round, got the ball more in towards the leg stump and he had his man stumped. Good piece of work by Mark Boucher.

But thanks to Haddin and some assistance from the lower order players, he stretched the lead to 413, and that meant that South Africa will have to score second highest total ever in a chase to win a Test match, if they were going to pull off a miraculous victory.

It didn't start well for South Africa; the leaden-footed Neil McKenzie was in trouble again, out to Mitchell Johnson. Johnson bowled that very good line, angling across the right hander, and providing Haddin the catch to go with his runs.

Then, as it has happened so many times in this Test match, just when you think that one side has got the game in their grasp, the other one comes along and does something to make you think otherwise. On this occasion it was a very gutsy and very determined Graeme Smith. He was very restricted in his play with a very sore elbow but he fought hard along with Hashim Amla. This pair had a very good partnership in the first innings, they repeated the dose.

Then there were a few breaks for the showers that came along, and that may have helped Smith, getting treatment each time. But he suddenly seemed to get a lot more freedom in his play, there was a lot more conviction in his stroke play and suddenly South Africa were cruising along. Smith got a century, and that would have given him a lot of pleasure. His record against Australia is down a lot compared to the rest of his overall record. He got this hundred, and with Amla, it looked as though South Africa were pushing into a position of great strength at stumps; along came Mitchell Johnson, again.

He bowled a slower ball and got rid of Smith. Then Brett Lee bowled a magnificent spell, he bowled a searing bouncer to Amla, and then followed it up with a perfect delivery and had him caught behind. Once again the game had changed course.

Just in the last few minutes when Australia had to take their frontline bowlers out of the attack, Peter Siddle copped a pounding from Jacques Kallis and that has really set up a final day that could be memorable.

South Africa require 187, they are only three wickets down, but the thing to remember is that the last three or four wickets aren't going to net South Africa too many runs. So their top-order players have got to get the runs for them.

Should be a great day, you would expect Australia to win from here.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator for Channel 9, and a columnist


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