Second test balanced on a knife-edge
A day of fascinatingly fluctuating fortunes ended with neither side yet able to call checkmate in the second and final Sunfoil test between Australia and South Africa at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium.
While the first test in Cape Town was pretty sensational, this second one has been absolutely absorbing – and typical of games between these two countries, in which each team takes a barrage of blows, goes down, and then gets back up and fights back.
It’s been like that the whole way through four days.
Day four was a classic example. AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla came out to resume the South African innings with the score on 229/3 – 199 runs ahead.
Just eight runs were added before AB de Villiers was out for 73. It was 237/5 – a lead of 207. Australia would have been jubilant with that effort and when Ashwell Prince and Mark Boucher fell, things looked grim for South Africa.
But then Philander and Steyn took their side to 314 with a partnership of 48 before Philander went for 23.
Morne Morkel followed straight after for a duck and then Imran Tahir joined Steyn.
Sensing the urgency of the situation, Steyn took matters into his own hands and with two mighty sixes and a few other mighty blows, he compiled a merry 41, while Tahir hung on grimly for four.
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The pair took South Africa to 339 before Steyn was last man out, caught behind off Patrick Cummins.
The young Australian fast bowler took six wickets with a great bowling effort.
Cummins, who became the second-youngest bowler to take six wickets in a test said he did not feel he was a boy among men. “I don’t think about that and the team hasn’t made me feel that way.”
He said all the Australians knew runs were not too far away for Ricky Ponting and it was fantastic watching him. “I grew up watching Ricky Ponting and it is fantastic to be touring here with him.”
South Africa were off the canvas and fighting again.
Looking at 310 for victory, Australia lost both openers (Shane Watson for 0 and Phil Hughes for 16) with just 19 runs on the board. It was their turn to hit the canvas.
But old hand Ricky Ponting joined newbie Usman Khawaja, and they ground out a100-run partnership, both getting 50s as Australia’s total grew to 141 before Imran Tahir took the third wicket, that of Khawaja for 65.
It was Australia’s turn to get up off the floor and fight on.
So it will be on day five. Australia will start on 142/3 with Michael Clarke on 1 and Ponting on 54. They will still have 168 to get on order to win the test and square the series.
Who will be the last man standing? Any offers? It’s anyone’s bet. But if the weather, the umpires and their pesky light meters just stay out of it, one bet is a good one: day five is going to be a beaut.
Report Day 1
Report Day 2
Report Day 3
South Africa: GC Smith (capt), JA Rudolph, HM Amla, JH Kallis, AB de Villiers, AG Prince, MV Boucher (wk), VD Philander, DW Steyn, M Morkel, Imran Tahir
Australia: SR Watson, PJ Hughes, RT Ponting, MJ Clarke (capt), UT Khawaja, MEK Hussey, BJ Haddin (wk), MG Johnson, PM Siddle, PJ Cummins, NM Lyon