At Hobart, November 12-15, 2016. South Africa won by an innings and 80 runs. Toss: South Africa. Test debuts: C. J. Ferguson, J. M. Mennie.
South Africa had previously conquered Australia in 22 Tests, but never quite like this - not even during the 4-0 whitewash at home in 1969-70. An innings win, their first in Australia, gave them a third successive series victory there, with a match to spare. By contrast, it was Australia's fifth defeat in a row, following the 3-0 whitewash in Sri Lanka. It was almost enough to overshadow a strange row about du Plessis's mint (see page 850).
The forecast for the first three days had varied between gloomy and cyclonic, but the cold front did not arrive as early as expected, and the match started under thunderous skies. To make things even more interesting, the pitch was generously grassed. Du Plessis was a relieved man when he won the toss: Australia were dismissed twice in just 93 overs - the equivalent of little more than a day. Warner was out in the first over, Burns in the second, and Khawaja and Voges to successive balls in the ninth. Australia were 43 for six at lunch, and all out for 85 not long after, with Smith - who stormed off, shaking his head - unbeaten on 48. Of the rest, only Joe Mennie, the Victoria fast bowler, and with Callum Ferguson one of two new aps,
made it into double figures. It was their lowest home total in 32 years.
In the batsmen's defence, Philander had rarely found more helpful conditions for his relentlessly questioning seam bowling, while Abbott, Dale Steyn's replacement, was not far behind. Everybody was either caught in the cordon, lbw or bowled - apart from Ferguson, run out by a direct hit from backward point by the reserve wicketkeeper, Dane Vilas, who had been on the field for only three balls (Philander had gone off following a collision as Smith scampered a leg-bye). Ferguson's departure dismayed his watching family, including his brother Lachlan, who had flown in from England - but trying to steal a second run at 17 for four was not a great decision. Philander returned to finish with five for 21.
Cook and Elgar then displayed solid defensive techniques, before Starc claimed three wickets in ten balls to burst open the top order. Hazlewood pinned du Plessis to make it 76 for four, raising hopes that Australia might reprise South Africa's great escape from Perth. But they were thwarted by Bavuma and de Kock, who kept things simple - ignoring the drive against anything but half-volleys, and leaving as many deliveries as they could. By the end of the first day they had taken their team 86 in front, and had a further 24 hours to plan, as rain washed out the second.
The reflection seemed to work. Bavuma was content to thwart and frustrate, while the elegant de Kock went for calculated risks, driving the seamers through the off side and lofting Lyon down the ground. After passing 50 for the fifth Test innings in a row, he reached his second century just before lunch, but was then beaten by a nip-backer from Hazlewood. After the interval, Bavuma's resistance ended with a leading edge to cover - a maiden scalp for the persevering Mennie - but Philander stretched the lead to 241.
Again Australia lost a wicket in the first over, Burns feathering a leg-side glance to de Kock. Warner's attempted flick off Abbott ricocheted off hip and elbow into the stumps, but at 121 for two by the close, with Khawaja and Smith comfortable, Australia seemed set to make South Africa work hard. Instead it was all over by lunch, their seamers producing as controlled a session of fast bowling as anyone could remember. So accurate was Philander that his first 30 deliveries were dots; it took Smith 40 minutes to score. And the wicket of Khawaja for 64, caught behind off Abbott, triggered one of Australia's more spectacular collapses, as eight wickets dominoed for 32 in 19 overs.
In a tale familiar to watchers of recent Ashes series in England, Australia's middle order failed to cope with lateral movement. Voges and Ferguson best illustrated the shattered confidence with half-hearted leaves against short deliveries which lobbed from bat or glove into the slips. Neither played in the next Test: Ferguson was dropped after one match, while the 37-year-old Voges (who might have been left out anyway, despite a Test average of 61) was concussed in a Sheffield Shield game. As the rout neared completion, Rabada took three wickets in seven balls, the last of them Smith, beaten for pace after batting two and a half hours. But it was Abbott who rounded off victory with the final two wickets to finish with nine all told, and the match award. At the press conference, Smith lamented: "I'm embarrassed to be sitting here, to be honest with you."
Man of the Match: K. J. Abbott