South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Port Elizabeth, 4th day February 23, 2014

Series level after Steyn magic


South Africa 423 (Duminy 123, de Villiers 116, Elgar 83, Lyon 5-130) and 270 for 5 dec (Amla 127*) beat Australia 246 (Warner 70, Morkel 3-63) and 216 (Rogers 107, Warner 66, Steyn 4-55) by 231 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Cullinan: When Steyn gets a sniff, he is a tough nut

It doesn't matter how accurate the South Africa Meteorological Department is. Dale Steyn's spell-binding afternoon burst of reverse swing inspired the home side to a 231-run victory in the dying moments of the fourth day to level the series. South Africa ripped out nine wickets in the evening session while Australia lost 10 for 90 in total after an opening stand of 126 between Chris Rogers and David Warner.

With a poor forecast for the final day, Graeme Smith, who declared 40 minutes before lunch, was desperate to wrap up the win and not leave anything resting on the vagaries of the climate. He claimed the extra half an hour, which began with Australia seven down, and Steyn claimed his fourth when he trapped Ryan Harris with an marginal lbw.

Rogers, who had compiled a magnificent fourth Test hundred, was run out by the substitute fielder Alviro Petersen at mid-off ending a 237-ball stay. It appeared he was trying to give Peter Siddle the spinner to face, rather than Steyn, but Smith was then told the light was too poor for his quick bowlers. Up stepped Dean Elgar to trap Nathan Lyon lbw although subsequent replays showed he had found a thin edge but Australia had no reviews left.

Given the way South Africa had been hammered in Centurion, the issues they faced over the balance of their side, the lack of a main spinner, the loss of one of their frontline bowlers and a pitch that did its best to defy fast bowling it will have to go down as one of their finest victories. Australia had also started their pursuit of 448 with a rollicking partnership between Rogers and Warner that, if not quite making thoughts of a world-record chase realistic, left a South Africa victory push a distant prospect.

South Africa's opening began to be forged shortly before tea when JP Duminy ended the first-wicket stand by removing Warner. Duminy had earlier given Warner a life on 36 - the latest reprieve for him in this series - when he could not hold a return catch diving to his left as he collided with Rogers at the non-striker's end. However, he and Elgar, with his left-arm spin, were causing difficulties for both openers out of the footmarks and Duminy then beat Warner on the back foot with one that straightened just enough to clip leg stump.

Without Warner's impetus - which had included four boundaries in four balls off Morne Morkel in a stirring riposte to being peppered with short deliveries - South Africa were able to choke Australia's scoring. And then they started to get the ball to reverse. Steyn, after an indifferent spell with the new ball, had given a hint of what he may be able to produce with a period round the wicket to the openers; for new batsmen the ball reversing is a much tougher prospect.

Alex Doolan became stuck, uncertain against spin before tea and pace afterwards. He was worked over by Morkel and Vernon Philander, twice providing edges that fell short of the wicketkeeper (which went to the TV umpire) and first slip, before pushing hard enough that a nick carried to Smith. Shaun Marsh's first ball from Philander was full and straight, the batsman getting his front pad too far across, as he completed a pair to contrast sharply with his comeback hundred last week. Then came Steyn.

His team-mates helped, Morkel and Philander building the pressure on Michael Clarke with a series of dot balls, before Steyn returned to produce one of those spells that sends a tingle down the spine. Fourth ball he had Clarke pushing at a delivery outside off and the edge was brilliantly held, low down, by Faf du Plessis at second slip. Due to the low bounce, and edges not carrying, the slips stood very close which made the catch even more impressive.

With Steven Smith in his sights, Steyn then went straight, the ball ducked back into the pads this time, and middle stump would have been its destination. However, the best, at least in terms of the spectacle, was still to come when, for the second time in the match, Brad Haddin had his middle stump uprooted - perhaps the best evidence that even if a batsman knows what is coming, sometimes a bowler is just too good.

Steyn was given a brief rest after a mesmeric five-over spell that brought 3 for 11, but Australia's collapse continued when Mitchell Johnson was given lbw on review after Philander had swung one back into his pads.

Amid all this, Rogers was adding a fourth hundred to his Ashes centuries at Durham, Melbourne and Sydney. He had found himself under a modicum of scrutiny after three failures to start the series, but drove three crisp boundaries in Steyn's first two overs and was soon playing with the confidence that characterised his tons against England.

He could have been removed before tea. In the last over of the session he chased an extremely wide delivery from Steyn, but the appeal was turned down by Kumar Dharmasena and Smith declined to review only for Hot Spot to show a clear mark on the toe end of the bat. Much later, with what would have been the final ball of the day if the extra half hour had not been granted, he glanced Morkel down the leg side where de Villiers dived low to his right to claim the catch. Richard Illingworth initially gave him out, but then asked Aleem Dar, the third umpire, to check whether it had carried and the pictures showed it bounced short.

As the overs ebbed away and the sun began to disappear towards the horizon, it appeared Rogers would at least carry his team into the final day and keep alive the chances of a weather-aided escape. But the sun had not quite set on South Africa's chances and now they can open the curtains tomorrow morning after a night of celebration rather than worry.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on February 27, 2014, 5:30 GMT

    thozar; you need professional help.

  • Friend on February 25, 2014, 23:19 GMT

    I agree Johnson has done very well against England and in the first test against RSA. There is no reason that his stats wont get any better if he played in India now. At the same time, there is no reason why his stats wont get any worse if he played in India now. His biggest test will come when he bowls to some of the world's best batsmen in India. Unfortunately in prev occasions, he has failed miserably.

    You say England are a good side now. How can they be a good side when they were blown to smithereens in the recent tour that they didn't even put up a fight? Even in their last whitewash they did well with Collingwood scoring a double century and KP getting a century. I think Cook also got a century. This time, only their new guy scored one century. Admit it, they are a poor team and you were still unable to beat them in England and instead got thrashed. We will expose how poor England are this summer.

  • Friend on February 25, 2014, 23:08 GMT

    @Shaggy076, you said Lyon has "cleaned all-comers in Australia". I wrote that his average of 32 in Australia is no big deal and that is equal to his career average. An average of 32 is not "cleaning all-comers" by any stretch of imagination. In addition, even in the spin friendly conditions of India, he has performed poorly. Now, ask yourself, who is the deluded one here? I have answered your question to the point. You really need to come out of the "Australia is great" myth to see reality.

    Dhoni has way better record than Haddin everywhere. I posted about Haddin's record against teams other than England. Why are you ignoring those? Are those numbers that I pulled from cricinfo flawed too? Has Haddin done something remarkable against other teams that was somehow missed in cricinfo archives and record books?

  • Graham on February 25, 2014, 19:32 GMT

    Thomas; Try and read it closely I didn't say Lyon was the best spin bowler n the world but according to your deluded logic a paceman is judged by playing in the sub continent. Then as soon as talking about a spinner you again judge by record in sub continent that is the opposite logic to what you applied to the paceman you appear to be the deluded one only using stats that suit your argument. Dhoni has been found wanting away from the sub continent with poor footwork. How is my logic on Johnson wrong his recent form in Australia and South Africa is better than his career form, he is in the best form of his life so why wouldn't his figures be better now in India thanwhen he was in lesser form. My messages are a lot less one eyed than yours, yet you calling me deluded. I have never put Australia above South Africa and that is our rightful place. Look at England's standing and there form prior to the recent Ashes they are not a poor side by any means. You my friend are the deluded one.

  • Friend on February 25, 2014, 18:59 GMT

    @Shaggy076, I missed this little gem of yours "there is no reason why his stats wouldnt be better in India now he is a better bowler". Bangla recently drew a test against Sri Lanka. There is no reason why they cannot draw a test against RSA. New Zealand recently won a test against India. There is no reason why they cannot win against RSA. lol. Johnson bullied ordinary batsmen in Oz. Let him try doing that against the likes of Kohli, Dhawan, Pujara, Rahane, Dhoni. The average will go above 30 again, hahaha. Dhawan alone would finish his career.

  • Friend on February 25, 2014, 18:56 GMT

    and, @Shaggy076, re: Dhoni vs Haddin, you are entitled to believe anything you want but stats dont lie. Which batsman do bowlers fear the most? Just because Haddin rescued his team couple of times against England at *home*, it does not make him a better player. What do you say about Dhoni's double hundred studded with boundaries and sixers against your team last year? Can Haddin even dream of playing such an innings? Haddin is an England bully, that is all he is. He has not performed against anyone else. Even against England, he has performed only at home.

    @srinivasulu.adiraju, well said. Dhoni has won ODI world cup, T20 world cup, Champions trophy, IPL, CLT20, test #1, ODI #1, T20I #1, you name it. What has Michael Clarke achieved other than winning against England that too at home? Unfortunately for Dhoni and India the away tests have not gone our way for a while. That will change with our England tour this summer.

  • Friend on February 25, 2014, 18:48 GMT

    @Shaggy076, I have read several messages of yours and always felt you were a deluded Oz fan fascinated by your ordinary team based on their victories that too at home against an ordinary England side. But this comment of yours takes the cake "Lyon is the best spinner in the world". hahaha, your great Lyon was taken to the cleaners in India where even Monty and Swann performed better. At home also he has been ordinary taking his wickets at 32 apiece which is close to his career average. Did you even bother checking Ashwin's and Jadeja's home record? The English suffered from the same "perform in the Ashes and be considered a great" syndrome and the Aussies have taken over now. Hyping ordinary players as great ones.

    As for Eng's win against India, at that time they were a team at their peak and we were in a transition phase. Your team came after they left and were soundly thrashed 4-0. If we play the same Eng team now anywhere we will also beat them comprehensively. No big deal.

  • Dummy4 on February 25, 2014, 12:40 GMT

    The SAfs might be rightly proud of Steyn being the Best bowler in the world, he surely is good at Reverse swing on slow tracks. Similarly Johnson is good on Bouncy tracks. But you can count on the fingers Bowlers who use Reverse swing to great effect, specially Pakistani bowlers Wasim & Waqar were masters, Malinga & even Zaheer to an extent. So Steyn is not a special Magician of the Art. But i cannot recall a Bowler after perhaps Ambrose/ Walsh who bowls those unplayable head-height bouncers which flies up to Slips to create Carnage. Recentlly Johnson has done that & if he continues his form all over consistently, it will be a Phenomenon for Modern cricket. Keep it Up Mitch!

  • Graham on February 25, 2014, 9:04 GMT

    Thosar ; You were a lot closer to losing than winning, whilst we won by 280 runs and 6 wickets. Mediocre sides dont beat the worlds best by that margin on there home soil. As for Haddin over Dhoni, I just know if the team was in trouble which person I would prefer to bat and I know who is the better glove man too. You can have your preference I dont care.

  • Graham on February 25, 2014, 9:00 GMT

    Thosar; Ok I take your points we are pretenders that did beat South Africa in a test away. South Africa are #1 and I have never debated that but this improved Australian team are contenders judging from the state of this series. I take it you believe Lyon is the best spinner in the world as opposite to your point about pace bowling, a judge of a good spinner is Australian conditions and Lyon has cleaned up all comers. As for Johnson his recent stats say he has improved at a dramatic rate in Australia and South Africa there is no reason why his stats wouldnt be better in India now he is a better bowler. Yes we beat a poor England side the same England side that beat India home and away so where does that put India in the chain. Australia pitches vary throughout the country pitches are the same year in year out no matter who the opposiition. If you were to watch cricket in Australia you would know that.