AB DE VILLIERS broke the control of the Australian bowlers to bat the Standard Bank Proteas into a first innings lead on the second day of the second Sunfoil Test match at St. George’s Park on Saturday.
The Proteas had struggled to take the initiative in spite of a good effort by the night watchman Kagiso Rabada who helped Dean Elgar add 45 for the second wicket and then the third wicket stand of 88 between Elgar and Hashim Amla.
Both the latter batsmen reached half-centuries (Elgar 57 off 197 balls, 6 fours and Amla 56 off 148 balls, also 6 fours) but the Proteas were only able to score 43 runs off the 26 overs that made up the middle session.
But De Villiers changed the tempo of the match as the Proteas scored 110 runs in the final session and, although they lost 5 wickets in the process they stretched the lead to 20 runs by the close of play.
De Villiers reached the close on 74 (81 balls, 14 fours) and still had Vernon Philander for company to endeavour to take the lead to the three-figure mark the Proteas will want.
The Australian seamers made effective use of reverse swing for most of the second and third sessions to pose some difficult questions for the batsmen before Steve Smith took the second new ball just over five overs from the close.
De Villiers holds the balance of power in the match in his gifted hands as it is not just the seamers who are benefiting from conditions. There was also substantial assistance for spinner Nathan Lyon who dismissed Quinton de Kock with a delivery that both turned and bounced substantially. The Proteas will not want a big fourth innings target.
Pat Cummins (2/55) was the pick of the Australian attack while Mitchell Marsh (2/26 in 9 overs) filled a vital role as fourth seamer on a day on which the visitors had to spend the entire day in the field.