South Africa 259/9 declared (Du Plessis 118*)
Australia 307/6 (Khawaja 138*, Abbott 3/38 )
Australia leads by 48 runs
Not for the first time in this series South Africa found their inner mongrel to launch a late fightback with the pink ball in this utterly engrossing final Test here at the Adelaide Oval.
The visiting pacemen have had matters almost entirely their own way during this series, but on another glorious day of Test cricket at this most picturesque of venues they were forced not only to rely on skill but also grit and determination to stay in the contest.
It was almost as if they could hear the Eye of the Tiger - theme song of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky movie series - playing through the loudspeakers all day for as a unit they got up off the canvas to strike a few late hefty blows under the Adelaide night sky.
It certainly was required for Australia’s batsmen slowly, carefully and skilfully restored the craft of Test match batting. After all the pre-match talk of the exaggerated swing of the pink ball, the South African bowling unit found it all to be hog wash as the Kookaburra was certainly well behaved all day.
“We did expect it to do a lot more. Even in the warm-up game that we had and the net sessions, it certainly did do a bit. To be fair, there are periods of the game where it does a bit. I think its more nip off the seam than actual swing. I don’t think it’s lived up to its hype and expectation,” Proteas seamer Kyle Abbott said.
This should though take nothing away from a magnificent hard-nosed century from Usman Khawaja. Thrust unwillingly into the opener’s role after David Warner was unable to bat the previous evening due to being too long off the field, the stylish left-hander played the sort of innings his team have craved all series.
Khawaja defended well, left well, drove well and pulled well. It was simply good Test match batting.
“He played very well. He was really in his bubble today and didn’t let us penetrate it. Guys of high quality aren’t going to give you chances. He didn’t give us any chances. All credit to him. It’s tough but we beat the bat on enough occasions, some days those find the edges and some days they don’t. We’re going to have another crack at him again tomorrow for the third time,” Abbott said of the centurion.
Khawaja’s running though wasn’t that flash due to a mix-up with captain Steve Smith (59 off 113 balls) after the pair has put on 137 runs for the Australian third wicket. It was the second highest partnership the home side have put together all series after David Warner and Shaun Marsh’s 158-run opening stand at the WACA in the first Test.
A distinct lack of partnerships have been the home side’s undoing in this series and Smith would have been well pleased that Khawaja and debutant Peter Handscomb (54 of 78 balls) were able to string together another 99-run partnership after his dismissal.
Handscomb was very impressive in his maiden Test innings as he played with plenty of intent and looked to keep the scoreboard moving for the entire duration of his time at the crease. A pull shot off Vernon Philander that sped to the mid-wicket boundary to bring up his half-century was indicative of the renewed energy he brought to this previously ailing Australian team.
“There’s definitely a bit of a hunger factor in there. It was noticeable. Handscomb came in and played very nicely on debut. When it comes to guys fighting for their places and coming in it is going to cause a bit of resistance. It’s still new in terms of how to bowl to them too,” Abbott added.
But just when the home side had taken the lead with still seven wickets remaining in the shed, the South Africans clawed themselves back into the contest with three wickets under lights.
Abbott, who was South Africa’s most penetrative bowler throughout the day, engineered the much-needed breakthrough for the visitors when he sent a full delivery clattering into Handscomb’s off stump to add to his two earlier wickets.
Fellow debutant Nic Maddison did not enjoy a similar fruitful debut when Kagiso Rabada rifled in a yorker to send him packing for a duck, while wicket-keeper Matthew Wade could not resist the temptation of nibbling at a Vernon Philander away-swinger shortly afterwards.
To Australia’s credit, though, they did not fold over like they have been doing all series and battled away to the close with the cushion of a building a strong lead.
Independent MediaNot for the first time in this series SA found their inner mongrel to launch a late fightback with the pink ball in the final Test at the Adelaide Oval.
Original source: It’s game on at the Adelaide Oval