South Africa vs. Australia, third Test: Five talking points, day four

South Africa vs. Australia, third Test: Five talking points, day four

South Africa will need to mount one of the greatest escapes in Test match history in order to stave off defeat in the third and final Test at Newlands. The hosts were 71-4 at stumps with a target of 511 most likely out of reach and an attempt at drawing far more reasonable. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks out five talking points from day four.

South Africa continued their struggles on day four of the third Test against Australia at Newlands, stumbling to 71-4 at stumps.

AB de Villiers and Kyle Abbott were at the wicket at close of play and massive defeat seems to be looming for South Africa unless they can repeat their antics from Adelaide in 2012 in order to salvage a draw. With a swinging ball and the wicket turning square, that challenge seems far out of reach.

Earlier, another century from David Warner helped propel Australia to 303-5 before Michael Clarke decided to declare, setting the hosts a target of 511.

Graeme Smith, Alviro Petersen and Dean Elgar all failed to get into double figures, with Mitchell Johnson once again being the chief destroyer. Hashim Amla offered some resistance with 41 off 109 balls for a dig in effort, but with a swinging ball from James Pattinson his vigil was toppled and the Australians continued to throttle the visitors.

De Villiers dug in for 16 off 100 balls to take South Africa to stumps with nightwatchman Abbott at the other end. Here are five talking points from the fourth day.

David Warner – the best opening Test batsman in the world at the moment?

David Warner just keeps on doing what needs to be doing with the bat, but many would prefer him to do so with his mouth shut. It was another day and another hundred for Australia’s big mouth, but with an average of 90.50 in three Tests, perhaps he should be allowed to do all the talking he wants. Even when South Africa’s bowling attack was firing, Warner has subdued them, his strike rate rarely dipping below the high eighties. Yet even though he is often pigeon holed as a player with reckless tendencies, he managed to construct two contrasting efforts in one innings on Tuesday. A brisk 50 off just 41 balls started things off before the second fifty to make up the hundred came off 83 before eventual dismissal for 143 off 153 balls. It was typically Warner and although he might irk many, he has obliterated perceptions of what makes a Test cricketer. It’s only natural for that to happen when you pick somebody without any concept of first-class cricket and you throw them into the deep end.

Mitchell Johnson makes Smith his bunny again

Graeme Smith walked out at Newlands, the place he’s called home for the last 18 years, to a warm reception. The small crowd were on their feet, cheering and applauding, and the Australians were kind enough to give him a guard of honour. But then it was a blink-and-you-miss-it kind of thing as Mitchell Johnson dug it in short and the ball ricocheted off Smith’s bat and into Alex Doolan’s fingers. It emulated a dismissal which everyone had seen before this series. Smith walked off and Johnson and co applauded instead of getting swept up in wild celebrations. With that wicket, Johnson will go down as the bowler to dismiss Smith more than an one else in Tests with nine dismissals in 11 Tests. New Zealand’s Chris Martin is second with eight times in 11 Tests and Zaheer Khan third with seven times in 11 Tests.

The lunacy of sending in a nightwatchman

Sunset in Cape Town is at 19:20. After Hashim Amla was dismissed with 20 minutes of play left to go on day four, South Africa decided to send in a nightwatchman; the time was 17:42. Not only did they send in a nightwatchman, but they sent in Kyle Abbott as a nightwatchman. The same Abbott who, in the first innings, looked like he was wearing concrete for boots. With James Pattinson swinging the ball and getting it to move, Abbott was out in the middle, eyes all wide and a face contorted in concentration. Nightwatchmen play an endearing role in cricket, but their purpose is often debated. When coach Russell Domingo was asked whose decision it was to send one in he simply answered: mine. When asked why, the answer was simply: why not? Well, make of that what you will.

AB de Villiers and freakishness of his batting

Essays have been, will be, and should be penned about AB de Villiers and his immense batting. He is the only player in the world who can make Mitchell Johnson look like a medium pacer. He has played Johnson better than anyone else over the last six months and has made him look limited. Johnson is, of course, somewhat limited. If bouncers aren’t flying past his head at 150km/h, he is likely to deliver a couple of average balls which are there for the taking. It does take a special kind of player to consistently manage this approach and De Villiers has simply asserted that he is one of the best batsmen in world cricket at the moment.

Alviro Petersen and Dean Elgar…South Africa’s future opening pair?

With Graeme Smith’s career over, CSA will announce an additional central contract on Thursday. You don’t need to be too perceptive to figure out that it will be Dean Elgar who gets the contract. That means South Africa will head on their next Test assignment – two Tests in Sri Lanka – with one opener who hasn’t score a hundred for over a year and another who has been moved around the order more than England’s Joe Root. Both will have a point to prove when that tour comes around and while there have been some glimmers of hope for both on this tour, their performances in the second innings won’t inspire much confidence. DM

Scorecard summary:

Australia 1st innings: 494-7 declared (David Warner 135, Michael Clarke 161; JP Duminy 4-73)

South Africa 1st innings: 287 all out (Alviro Petersen 53, Faf du Plessis 67; Mitchell Johnson 4-42, Ryan Harris 3-63)

Australia 2nd innings: 303-5 delc (David Warner 145; Kyle Abbott 14-2-61-3)

South Africa 2nd innings: 71-4 (Hashim Amla 41, Mitchell Johnson 2-31)

South Africa trail by 440 runs.

Photo: Australia’s James Pattinson appeals successfully for the wicket of South Africa’s Hashim Amla (not in picture) during the fourth day of the third cricket test match at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town. (REUTERS/Shaun Roy)


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