South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Durban, 3rd day March 8, 2009

South Africa face uphill battle

JP Duminy: "It's just about rocking up tomorrow with a positive mindset and believing that we can do it." © AFP

The situation is not pretty for South Africa. There are two days to play, they have a 506-run deficit, their captain Graeme Smith won't come out at the top of the innings as he nurses a fractured hand and rain is unlikely to save them. And there's the small matter of Australia still having seven wickets in hand and being able to build their advantage with time on their side.

It's hard to find positives for the hosts. But if their recent tour of Australia taught them anything it was that seemingly impossible situations are not always so and after stumps on the third day in Durban, JP Duminy was trying desperately to find a bright side on which to pin his hopes. He searched the deep recesses of his memory and came up with a Kingsmead success story from nearly a decade ago.

"Gary Kirsten scored that 275 to save a Test match against England," Duminy said of the 1999-2000 Boxing Day Test, when South Africa followed-on and made 572 for 7. "There are definitely capabilities of it happening. It's just about rocking up tomorrow with a positive mindset and believing that we can do it. It's a funny game so we'll just have to wait and see."

Smith's injury makes a difficult prospect seem even less attainable for a South African side that will lose the series and their hopes of claiming the No. 1 Test ranking if they go down in Durban. Smith could feasibly repeat his Sydney heroics and bat with his injury if South Africa find themselves close to winning or saving the game but the chances of that happening are slim.

"It's going to be a tough ask for us," Duminy said. "We'll look forward to a good start from the players up front. We've definitely got the top five, plus [Mark] Boucher, to help with the situation. Everyone will just move up one space, so Hashim [Amla] will open."

The first step in the process is discovering how much they will be chasing - their target is already nearly 100 beyond the record successful fourth-innings chase in Tests - and how long they will have to survive at the crease. Australia must decide on a declaration time-frame and the centurion from both innings, Phillip Hughes, said there had been no indication from the captain Ricky Ponting as to when that would occur.

"There's still a lot of cricket to be played in this game," Hughes said. "There's two days and we'll come back tomorrow and just go from there. We'll wait and see. We'll wake up tomorrow and turn up and do the warm-up and go from there."

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo