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Ken Borland

Australia call into service all their ruthlessness, precision & nous; SA follow-on almost certain

Posted on November 17, 2023 by Ken

Australia called into service all the ruthlessness, precision and nous of their ace bowling attack to leave South Africa reeling on 149 for six, the follow-on now almost certain, at the end of the fourth day of the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday.

With rain having washed out the entire third day’s play and the fourth morning, and Australia declaring on their overnight score of 475 for four, the Proteas were left with five sessions to survive, the follow-on target of 276 their prime objective.

But their top-order was blown away before tea as they slumped to 37 for three, and middle-order resistance in the final session was broken as captain Pat Cummins bowled a wonderful spell of skilful, clever and aggressive fast bowling, using the around-the-wicket option superbly.

Temba Bavuma (35) and Khaya Zondo (39) provided some brave resistance as they added 48 for the fourth wicket, and Zondo and Kyle Verreynne (19) added 45 for the fifth wicket.

Marco Jansen (10*) and Simon Harmer (6*) are at the wicket for the Proteas and will try and prolong the first innings for as long as possible on the final day.

Josh Hazlewood returned to Test action with an immaculate line at brisk pace, and he grabbed his second wicket when he removed the tenacious Bavuma, the batsman edging an unnecessary defensive stroke outside off-stump to the wicketkeeper.

An outstanding yorker from around the wicket by Cummins (14-5-29-3) then accounted for Zondo, trapped lbw, and four overs later, he induced an easy slip catch from Verreynne.

The Australian attack, having five sessions to take 20 wickets to win the Test and claim a 3-0 sweep of the series, as well as assuring themselves of a place in the World Test Championship final, were bang on target from the outset on Saturday.

It made for a torrid time for the Proteas batsmen, especially opener Dean Elgar. The captain scored 15, but most of those runs were off the edge and he lived a charmed life, notably when he edged Hazlewood to Steven Smith at first slip. Smith was diving forward one-handed, but the similarity to the Marnus Labuschagne/Harmer incident on the first day saw third umpire Richard Kettleborough quite rightly disallow the catch because some part of the ball had touched the ground.

But Hazlewood dismissed Elgar four overs later when the left-hander got into a tangle against a well-directed lifter on leg-stump, gloving a catch to the wicketkeeper.

Off-spinner Nathan Lyon was introduced in the eighth over and he bowled opener Sarel Erwee for 18 in his sixth over, the left-hander making a terrible error of judgement and shouldering arms to a delivery that went straight on to off-stump.

Excellent use of the short ball again by Australia, this time by Cummins, saw the departure of Heinrich Klaasen (2) in the next over, gloving a lifter aimed at his armpit through to the wicketkeeper.

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