THE Standard Bank Proteas had to overcome stubborn Australian resistance as they ground out a 400-run overall lead on the third day of the final Sunfoil Test match at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on Sunday.
The Proteas first ran into opposition from the overnight batting pair, captain Tim Paine and Pat Cummins, who put on 99 for the seventh wicket before the last three wickets fell relatively quickly to give the home side a huge lead of 267 runs on the first innings. Remarkably, this one major partnership was Australia’s biggest of the entire series.
Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Keshav Maharaj finished with three wickets each but there was the real concern of Morne Morkel leaving the field with a recurrence of the injury he suffered in the Bangladesh series which no doubt influenced Faf du Plessis’ decision not to enforce the follow on.
One of the highlights of the day’s play was the swallow dive catch of Dean Elgar to take the wicket of Paine, the last man out, for top score of 62 (96 balls, 7 fours and 2 sixes).
Elgar was quickly back in the picture when he and Aiden Markram shared the second 50 partnership of the match before the latter was out, having achieved the outstanding aggregate of 480 runs for the series. He also posted his 1 000th run in Test cricket in only his 10th match. There are only four players who have taken fewer matches to reach this landmark.
On a pitch on which none of the batsmen could ever have felt properly in the day’s play produced only 245 runs for the loss of 7 wickets as the Proteas extended their overall lead to 325 by the tea interval and 401 by the close of play.
The Proteas will have been pleased to see their captain back in some sort of form as he and Elgar reached the close after an unbroken partnership of 40, leaving their side in a very strong position with 7 wickets still in hand.
Cummins remains the talisman of the Australian attack with two of the three wickets to fall so far, giving him 7 in the match.
With two full day’s play still available Faf du Plessis will have one on the weather as he decides when to set the Australian a fourth innings target.
The Sunfoil Education Trust (SET) has benefited to the tune of 167 500 from the number of fours and sixes hit and wickets taken by the two sides in this Test match to date, bringing the cumulative series total to date to R900 500.