South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 3rd day March 3, 2014

Harris, Johnson tighten Australia's grip


Jarrod Kimber's match report

Australia 494 for 7 dec and 27 for 0 (Warner 25*, Rogers 1*) lead South Africa 287 (du Plessis 67, Petersen 53, Johnson 4-42, Harris 3-63) by 234 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

This series was billed as the showdown of the two best pace attacks in the world and on day three in Cape Town, Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson bowled Australia into a position from which they could hope to claim the match and the series. Hurt by Dale Steyn's hamstring injury, South Africa failed to bowl Australia out the first time; led by the intent and intensity of Harris and Johnson, Australia skittled South Africa in less than a day.

It left the Test tantalisingly poised with two days to play. Michael Clarke chose not to enforce the follow-on after South Africa were dismissed 207 runs behind - he did not want to bat last on this surface. But nor is he the kind of man who will die wondering; with a series on the line, Clarke can be expected to declare early enough on day four to give his bowlers plenty of time to skittle South Africa a second time. If one day was enough in the first innings, he will hope one and a half is enough in the second.

By stumps, Australia's lead was 234 runs as the openers moved without drama to 27 for 0 - David Warner was on 25 and Chris Rogers had 1. It is the kind of scenario in which Warner has often thrived in recent times and if he motors along on the fourth morning, Clarke might just call his men in earlier than expected. Whatever the case, South Africa will need a more sturdy batting display than they delivered on day three, when they were dismissed for 287.

It was notable that Australia's first five partnerships in the first innings were all worth more than 50, and that only two in South Africa's entire innings reached that level. Alviro Petersen made a quick fifty at the top of the order, Faf du Plessis tried to recall his Adelaide fight with 67 and there was some late resistance from Vernon Philander and Steyn, but Harris, Johnson and their colleagues were so unrelenting that sustained defiance was impossible.

Johnson finished with 4 for 42 but it was Harris, due for knee surgery after this Test, who really delivered for his captain. Earlier in the series, Harris had looked distinctly fatigable but here he was unflagging, sending down 22 overs including nine maidens on his way to 3 for 63. James Pattinson offered lively pace and picked up two wickets and only a 95-run stand between du Plessis and Philander looked like causing Australia any real problems.

There was seam movement, there was reverse swing and there was the occasional bit of roughing up, like when Petersen was struck on the arm at 150kph by Johnson just before losing his wicket, or when Johnson banged in a bouncer that pinpointed the badge on Steyn's helmet. Mostly, though, it was the movement and persistent lines that did the trick, and the tone was set by the early loss of Graeme Smith for 5 after Clarke declared on Australia's overnight total of 494 for 7.

Smith tried to close the face and work Harris to leg but the ball angled across him off the seam and his edge behind was taken by Haddin. That was a regulation take for Haddin, but the same could not be said of his effort to get rid of Dean Elgar for 11. Pattinson moved a ball back in to Elgar at 145kph and an inside edge flew over the stumps and was brilliantly taken by Haddin diving full stretch to his right.

That left South Africa at 42 for 2 and relying on Petersen and Amla to rebuild. Petersen was far more effective than in the first Test in Centurion and regularly walked across his stumps to work the ball to leg. His aggressive mindset brought him eight fours and he reached his half-century from 50 balls, but Johnson's pace also provided him with the odd nervous moment.

Johnson eventually had his man when he banged one in at the ribs of Petersen, who on 53 tickled a catch off the gloves down leg and was taken by Haddin. Amla remained at the crease, though, and was good at milking the runs off Lyon, while also providing some soothing sights for the South African fans, including a sublime drive through cover-point for four off Harris. But Amla went for one drive too many against Harris and was bowled for 38 when a delivery nipped back in beautifully off the seam.

AB de Villiers drove away from his body and edged to second slip off Johnson for 14, before JP Duminy was set up wonderfully by Harris, who gave him a couple of inswingers on the pads and then angled one across him that drew an edge behind. Australia missed the chance to get through South Africa a little quicker when Haddin muffed a straightforward stumping opportunity off Nathan Lyon when du Plessis had 30, and it was one of three chances of varying degrees of difficulty for du Plessis.

A couple of lovely clips through leg off Lyon brought du Plessis his half-century but on 67 he pushed at Johnson and was sharply taken by Warner low to the ground at gully. Shane Watson bowled Kyle Abbott and then snared two catches at slip to finish the innings, Steyn caught off Johnson for 28 and Morne Morkel off Pattinson for 7, and Philander walked off unbeaten on 37, which occupied 107 balls and more than three hours.

It was the kind of fight that South Africa's batsmen will need to show in the second innings. It may be hard to see a realistic path to victory for South Africa, but denying Australia a series win is still a goal worth pursuing.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sreedhar on March 4, 2014, 12:26 GMT

    If anyone is benefitted it should be India. India& PAK sometimes looks birds of same feather.iTodaybthey both do well to flop tomorrow.yesterday' sPak win was glorified by media.But it was just lug CK they won.they had lost the game in the 49th over itself. But a desperate Afridi tried some heroic which clicked to make him overnight hero. If they loose the matchtoday to BDno one will have any cause to wonder. It is just their habit,the way they lost every game against India since1975.36 long years without a win. Any how, cricket is certainly a Glorious game of Uncertainty is being proved time and again.

  • Graham on March 4, 2014, 12:17 GMT

    Jerome incase of no reverse swing that's why 500 is a good target. But at 140 overs old if you bat that long, the second new ball is 50 overs old you are unlikely to get wickets with tired bowlers and old ball. I always thought 500 from 140 was a good declaration it seems now with the acceleration it is going to be something like that.

  • Android on March 4, 2014, 11:39 GMT

    Shaggy the point I was making is that Clarke put it that way to show he was an attacking captain and to make as though Smith was defensive.My point is that it seems like the mindset is a foregone conclusion.What if Aus dont get the reverse swing. Are there no possible where in a team with 4 bstsmen with averages of around 50 that one of them cant make 150 on a flat track?

  • rob on March 4, 2014, 11:00 GMT

    I wonder what everyone would be saying if we'd kept going at T20 pace, lost a heap of wickets and let SA back into the game? .. It was still a 150 run session and ordinally people would be gushing about that. .. I'm with the other .bob on this. .. Our bowlers are either godd enough to do it in about 120 overs or they're not. .. Don't ever forget the Saffa's have the best record at chasing down big 4th innings targets! Ps. Watch em go in the 20 overs or so they'll bat in lunch-tea session.

  • Graham on March 4, 2014, 10:57 GMT

    Jerome Swarts; You surely could see Clarke taking the piss with his comments - of course he wouldnt have declared and everyone knows it, not sure why people took him seriously there. We didnt need 140 overs in the first innings did we, I think you will find if teams can bat 140 overs they can bat 250 overs because the bowlers are completely spent by the 140 mark. So I have no issue with it being 140 overs but I do believe we should have set 500 of 140 overs but it looks like its going to be about 450.

  • Prasanna on March 4, 2014, 10:49 GMT

    @Jerome, same thought here - Aus seem to have blown away a great opportunity to go 2-1 in SA. Rank bad tactics, these - for all the talk about his captaincy, Clarke is going to take a lot of brick-bats if Aus can't bowl SA out by tomorrow because of lack of time.

  • jake on March 4, 2014, 10:49 GMT

    These tactics are a disgrace. As a fanatical Aussie supporter am very disappointed . To me you always do your best on the field. This is not cricket. You play like this when you try and save a game, not when you want to win it.

  • Andrew on March 4, 2014, 10:45 GMT

    @Gerry_the_Merry on (March 4, 2014, 10:17 GMT) - cracker of a comment! Without doubt in my mind India actually do have good pacers. They just get treated like 2nd class citizens in the Team India set up. I have a lot of time for Ishant Sharma - I think he is way better than his stats suggest, he is just unfortunate that he keeps getting selected to play home tests where his style of bowling is completely unsuited. He had success against NZ - & fully fit can trouble us in Oz, & I really hope Yadav gets fully fit as I thought he was a massive find. Shammi & Zaheer are clever operators too.

  • James on March 4, 2014, 10:44 GMT

    To summarise, i will say this. Aren't Clarke, Warne and Lehmann three of the brightest cricket minds in Australian Cricket? YES! IF these three couldn't figure out that Doolan can't accelerate the run rate then they are dumb. Which is exactly why i think Clarke is intentionally putting Doolan at three to give SA a sniff, because if they wanted to go for 450 - 500 then they would have gone for Watson/ Haddin/ Smith or Clarke himself!

  • Anthony on March 4, 2014, 10:37 GMT

    Hopefully Doolan will injure himself with his knife and fork at lunch and have to retire hurt, incredible loss of momentum, Australia is obviously well placed but to bat at above 6 an over for the first hour and fifteen minutes, then to be pulled back to just over 2 an over, it was painful to watch.

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