They claimed victory in six sessions as 34 wickets fell in fewer than 145 overs in the second-shortest Test in Austra20 hrs ago
Australia 218 (Head 92, Rabada 4-76) and 35 for 4 (Labuschagne 5*, Rabada 4-13) beat South Africa 152 (Verreynne 64, Lyon 3-14) and 99 (Bavuma 29, Cummins 5-42) by six wickets
It only lasted two days. But it was action-packed, wicket-filled and run-rare. And in the end, Australia have the series lead. They claimed victory in six sessions as 34 wickets fell in fewer than 145 overs in the second-shortest Test in Australia.
The frequency of dismissals means the unavoidable talking point will be the pitch, which was so green it was indiscernible from the outfield on day one, but it would be unfair to pin the result on the surface alone. Australia’s bowlers, especially in the latter part of the first and throughout the second innings, were accurate and incisive against a South African batting line-up. In 2022, South Africa have been dismissed for under 200 in Tests eight times, their most innings totals lower than 200 in a calendar year. In this Test match, their totals of 152 and 99 with top scores of 64 from Kyle Verreynne and 36* by Khaya Zondo were not enough.
Australia also battled on the strip, which showed signs of inconsistent bounce abetted by the divots and lost four wickets in the chase, all to Kagiso Rabada. He is now the leading Test wicket-taker of the year and it will be small consolation for falling behind in a key contest. South Africa must win at least one Test to stay in contention for the World Test Championship final, while Australia lead the points table.
The damage was done in the middle session, where South Africa were reduced to 66 for 7, level on scores after conceding an equivalent lead in the morning, but without much batting to come. Zondo, playing in only his third Test, gave a reasonable account of his ability especially against the short ball but only had support from Temba Bavuma, with whom he shared a 42-run fourth-wicket stand.
By the time the pair came together, South Africa were 5 for 3 and has lost Dean Elgar, lbw to Pat Cummins, Rassie van der Dussen to a Mitchell Starc beauty that seamed in at pace and snuck through the bat-pad gap to give Starc his 300th Test wicket and Sarel Erwee, caught in the gully for the second time in the match.
Bavuma and Zondo batted together for 99 balls and scored 42 runs between them, many of them nervy. They were beaten at least a dozen times but there were also some signs of form, such as when Bavuma leaned into a cover drive off Cummins and then Scott Boland and when Zondo swivel-pulled Cummins behind square. They were 19 runs short of erasing the deficit when a Nathan Lyon delivery stayed a touch low and struck Bavuma on the pad. He was given out and reviewed, with replays showing it was going on to clip leg stump.
In the next over, Boland found Kyle Verreynne’s outside edge with a delivery that moved away slightly and Steven Smith completed the catch at second slip. Two balls after that, Boland bowled Marco Jansen with an away-seamer. On the stroke of the scheduled tea break, Starc bagged another when Keshav Maharaj nicked off. South Africa were still two runs behind. They levelled scored by the tea break, but they did not appear to be building much of a lead when Cummins removed Rabada and Anrich Nortje in successive balls. Zondo farmed the strike for much of the time Lungi Ngidi was with him but Ngidi also got a couple away and South Africa set Australia 34 to win.
Earlier, Australia took the lead in the first five deliveries as Rabada completed his overnight over. Cameron Green tucked into a half-volley and drove Rabada down the ground to put the hosts ahead. Green repeated the shot two more times in Rabada’s next two overs to force him out of the attack early, but that did not work to Australia’s advantage.
Marco Jansen replaced Rabada and struck twice in his first over to clip Australia’s brisk start. Green received another half-volley, off Jansen’s second ball, and he attempted a booming drive. He only managed a thick edge that flew to Keshav Maharaj at third slip. Maharaj parried the ball up and Sarel Erwee, from first slip, ran behind him to take the catch. Two balls later, Travis Head was given out caught down the leg side. Head reviewed and though there was nothing on hotspot, snicko revealed a spike that confirmed he had hit both glove and shirt. His 96-ball innings finished on 92, and ultimately, proved a significant difference between the two sides.
Australia’s lead was only 30 runs at that stage, and it was up to Alex Carey and the lower order to push that past 50. Starc lofted Jansen over mid-off and pulled Nortje through mid-wicket and put on 31 with Carey for the eighth wicket. Carey ran well in his short innings, with no boundaries in his 30-ball 22, but 12 singles, two threes and a four, which he and Starc ran.
They took Australia’s lead to over 60 before Ngidi was introduced after the first drinks’ break and broke through. Starc hit Ngidi’s first ball in the air through mid-on for four and then drove the last ball aerially as well. Ngidi got down low in his follow-through and completed a good return catch.
A pumped-up Rabada then bounced Cummins out, with three short balls in a row. The first popped up to point and Cummins was given out but reviewed successfully. Replays showed the ball had hit the arm guard. Cummins nearly edged the second and then pulled the third to mid-wicket, where Nortje was waiting. In this next over, Rabada had Lyon caught at mid-on to finish with four wickets in the innings.
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