South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 4th day March 4, 2014

South Africa stonewall but Australia eye victory


South Africa 287 and 71 for 4 (de Villiers 16*, Abbott 1*, Johnson 2-31) need another 440 runs to beat Australia 494 for 7 dec and 303 for 5 dec (Warner 145, Abbott 3-61)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Kimber: Cricket stood still for Graeme Smith

Adelaide, November 25, 2012. Set a record chase, South Africa go to stumps at 77 for 4 with AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis at the crease. Through the unwavering concentration of du Plessis, they salvage a miraculous draw.

Cape Town, March 4, 2014. Set a record chase, South Africa go to stumps at 71 for 4 with AB de Villiers and nightwatchman Kyle Abbott at the crease. Faf du Plessis is next in. Surely they couldn't do it again? Could they?

Michael Clarke must have thought back to that Adelaide Test as he made his declaration calculations on the fourth day at Newlands. That match was an opportunity missed, and now his men had the chance to redeem themselves and secure an away series win over South Africa. They had dominated the match so far, in no small part thanks to David Warner's twin centuries, but the job still needed finishing. A draw from this position might just feel like a win to the retiring Graeme Smith.

At 15 for 3 after Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris skittled Smith, Alviro Petersen and Dean Elgar, the result seemed a formality. Clarke's declaration 40 minutes before tea gave South Africa a nominal target of 511 runs, but their only realistic goal was batting out four and a half sessions to settle for a 1-1 series. A post-tea stonewalling effort from de Villiers and Hashim Amla gave them hope of achieving that feat.

In Australia's favour, the fifth day was due to start half an hour early to make up for the loss of play due to rain on day two. And unlike the Adelaide Test, where James Pattinson broke down and left Clarke a bowler short, here he had the complete artillery still at his disposal, including the allrounder Shane Watson, who did not play in that Adelaide Test.

Pattinson performed an important function as the sun set behind Table Mountain, trapping Amla lbw for 41 with a ball that jagged in sharply and rapped him right in front. A hopeful review did not save Amla, who had spent 148 minutes at the crease and faced 109 deliveries. His 53-run stand with de Villiers occupied 30.4 overs. The runs were irrelevant, the time they ate up was not.

South Africa's scorecard had more dots than an Ishihara test; de Villiers alone had negotiated 89 of them by stumps, of the 100 deliveries he had faced. At the close of play, de Villiers was on 16 and Abbott had 1. South Africa had added only 56 runs in the final session, but for the loss of only one wicket. That was important after the mini-collapse that occurred before tea.

Johnson ended Smith's Test batting career on a low note. Applauded through a guard of honour by the Australians on his way to the crease, Smith managed only 3 before he tickled a quick Johnson delivery on to his body and the catch lobbed up to Alex Doolan at short leg. He walked off to a standing ovation and turned around to raise his bat to all sections of the crowd, but knew he had missed the chance for one last captain's innings.

Johnson soon rattled the stumps of Dean Elgar, who missed a quick delivery that seamed away just a fraction, and it left South Africa on 15 for 3 after Ryan Harris had earlier trapped Alviro Petersen right in front. It completed a demoralising couple of sessions for South Africa, after Clarke delayed his declaration in order to completely bat South Africa out of the contest.

The runs came quickly in the second session as Warner, Watson and Steven Smith enjoyed the freedom to go for their shots and Graeme Smith, in his last acts as South Africa's captain in the field, had little choice but to send his men back to the boundary to save as many runs as possible. Clarke called an end to proceedings with the total on 303 for 5, with Smith unbeaten on 36 from 20 deliveries and Brad Haddin on 3.

Warner was the key man throughout Australia's innings and finished with 145 from 156 balls when he edged behind off Abbott, who ended up with three wickets. Not since Phillip Hughes in Durban in 2009 had an Australian scored two centuries in a Test. Warner had started the day briskly and moved to his half-century from 41 deliveries, although by lunch he had fallen below the run-a-ball rate.

The only man to fall in the first session was Chris Rogers, who on 39 virtually gave his wicket away with a slack piece of running between the wickets when he jogged back for a second having swivelled the ball to fine leg. The direct hit from the deep caught Rogers short as he failed to ground his bat properly, and it led to a decline in the scoring rate as Doolan came in and looked to get himself set.

Doolan played some nice shots on his way to 37, including a classy on-drive for four, but he used up 87 balls to get there and was out shortly after lunch when he was caught top-edging a hook. Watson struck a quick 25 from 17 balls and helped plunder 22 off one JP Duminy over before he was caught at point off the bowling of Abbott, and Clarke fell for a duck trying for quick runs.

In the field, South Africa were on a hiding to nothing but failed to show the intensity that might have been expected of them after Smith announced his retirement overnight. Dale Steyn bowled three overs with his hamstring injury but had no real impact. None of it really mattered. It was in the batting department that South Africa would need to show real fight if they were to save this match.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Friend on March 6, 2014, 4:03 GMT

    @Bruce Lamberton, wrong facts mate. India won as recently as 2007 in England. So we have won 3 series in England - 1971 (1-0), 1986 (2-0), and 2007 (1-0). We have also won series in New Zealand, West Indies, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. I have mentioned numerous times that we should have won not 1 but 2 consecutive series in Oz but for poor umpiring. In 2011 in South Africa we almost won the series but for a Kallis rearguard. So we have performed well in most countries contrary to popular belief.

    @Dravid_Pujara, cheers mate. Oz has been thrashed almost every time they visit our shores. Yet they keep blowing their trumpets after defeating teams on the wane like England and RSA. It looks from their boasting as if the tour last year when they were decimated 4-0 never happened. Even with this team, if they come to India now, they will be thrashed like the previous 3 tours. Just for their viewing pleasure:-)

  • Dummy4 on March 5, 2014, 21:54 GMT

    @Thozar You cannot ignore the fact that India are a vastly less successful Test team when playing away than when at home.

    They have never won an away series in Australia; they have never won an away series in South Africa; it took them 41 years to finally win their first away series against that powerhouse of world cricket, New Zealand, in 2009, to whom they've just lost the most recent series played. And while India may have won two away series against England prior to 1986, they have not managed to repeat this feat for 28 years now.

    As for being "giant slayers", you seem to have forgotten that since 1999/2000 India has lost home series to South Africa, Australia and England, so they are not invincible at home which you seem to imply.

    This is why India has struggled to achieve and retain the #1 ranking, and why they have slipped back to #3. Australia has just beaten South Africa in an away series (again) and are now #2 in the world, so give credit where credit is due.

  • Srinivas on March 5, 2014, 14:31 GMT

    @Chris_P, yawn myte, grasping at straws. Aren't you? I know that you love to live in the past, administration wise and also game wise. Wake up and smell the coffee! It sure is some 'intelligence' to look at hundred years as opposed to looking at the recent mauling Aussies were dished out in India, especially in Tests - that sort of 'intelligence' that makes you feel good and escape from the reality of your last 3 tours to India - 0-8 and counting. Cheers myte....

  • Kev on March 5, 2014, 12:07 GMT

    Darren if you're reading this can you at least instruct all of the Aussies bowlers to bowl at the stumps and make the batsmen play. 91.4 overs pattinson 4 balls batsmen doesn't even need to play. Wasting balls and time. They want wickets best way is to aim at the stumps????

  • Kev on March 5, 2014, 11:37 GMT

    Isn't it funny how the Aussies and Proteas have played 3 great test with some awesome performances yet the Indian and Sri Lankan supporters seldom give credit where credit is due. This has been a top series in many respects better than the ashes but why do people need to compare these two teams with the Indians and Sri Lankans who are only strong at home as both away records are dreadful compared to the Aussies and Sth Africans who have excellent results both at home and away. You point the finger at the Aussie supporters for being one eyed. Time to look in the mirror guys.

  • David on March 5, 2014, 11:18 GMT

    @tanstell87 That's right Tanstell. Australia is the only Test nation that has a superior win loss ratio to every other cricket nation in the world with the closest nation still way,way behind. Come to think of it, they are the only One Day side to have a superior record to all other nations. You can quote just part of last year, i can quote the last 6 months but over the whole journey they are not only doing well now - they have simply been the best over the whole duration and by quite a margin. Twice they have won 16 consecutive tests, West Indies is next with 11. I won't go on but thanks tanstella87 for the reminder.

  • ESPN on March 5, 2014, 11:10 GMT

    Tanstell - very generous of you to say as Australia pushes for a 7th win in 8 games against two of the top nations. Thank you so much that we are finally no longer a disappointment. We'll try harder in the future.

  • Kevin on March 5, 2014, 11:03 GMT

    Posted by SLslider @ I didn't realize that SA will perform so pathetically at that time. T20 WC is in Bangladesh and we will see who wins it. When you make public predictions and those predictions fail it would be gentlemanly to accept the fact you were wrong - not make excuses. The fact is you were completely wrong regardless of any post-mortem thoughts.

    Now, tell us all for the record, who is going to win the T20 WC. Where do you see the lowly ranked Australian team coming in the WC?

  • Wesley on March 5, 2014, 11:01 GMT

    Really what do people expect these guys to do, go all gung ho in a pursuit of nothingness when there can be pride in defiance.

    Its been a poor series and one we were severely under prepared for against a team playing with confidence and players at their peak. We will take stock after today make the needed changes and go on from their the local talent is not lean pickings.

  • Luke on March 5, 2014, 10:52 GMT

    @TheBigBoodha - SA don't shut up shop if they have a sniff as was the case with India a couple of games ago, chasing 460-odd. They play sensibly and give it a good go. They came really close on that occasion. There are no grounds for saying they 'would have' if Clarke had declared earlier. Fact is, a good captain knows when to declare, leaves the door open just a bit - enough to entice the opposition to go for the win, then backs his bowlers to finish the job - as Smith did in PE. Oz may still go on to win this, and they will deserve to, but they're going to have to keep on working for it. This is test cricket, not T20.

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