Proteas staring down the barrel

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Australia: 383 all out (Khawaja 146, Abbott 3/48, Rabada 3/89)

Despite all the talk of maintaining the momentum to create history here at the Adelaide Oval it is clear the exertions of the past month has finally caught up with South Africa.

Perhaps it was to be expected after the bowling unit dug deep into the energy reserves to bowl Australia out twice in the first Test at the WACA without the services of the World’s No 1 fast bowler. Marry that with the mental strain all the players and management have been under since the noise around captain Faf du Plessis grew louder in the build-up to this pink ball Test and the performance over the last three days starts to ring true.

The Proteas magnificently won this series in Hobart almost 10 days ago already. It confirmed their status alongside arguably one of the greatest teams to play this wonderful game to have won three consecutive Test series in Australia. The novelty of the pink ball Test under floodlights and Du Plessis’s dramas would have served up some sort of inspiration, but the essence of international sport is ruled by the desperation for success.

Consequently the dominance of Australia in the match thus far becomes clearer. The home side were in “crisis” mode after their Hobart embarrassment and saw fit to clear out the stables for the dead-rubber here in Adelaide. Not since the advent of World Series Cricket and the rebel tours to South Africa that decimated the resources has Australia made as many as six changes to their line-up.

It has already reaped dividends with a couple of debutants putting up their hand for the fight and wanting to show some sort of resilience that Australian captain Steve Smith has been craving for all series.

Equally, the one player in the South African team that gravely needed to put in a performance to possibly save his Test career was opener Stephen Cook. The Highveld Lions captain has endured a miserable tour of Australia and he fought tooth and nail on Saturday afternoon through to the evening to ensure the Proteas at least had some sort of lead to take into Sunday.

Cook did not let the loss of his opening partner Dean Elgar within the first over of attempting to eradicate Australia’s first innings lead of 124 runs deter him. Neither the departure of Hashim Amla (45), JP Duminy (26), Faf du Plesis (12), Temba Bavuma (21) and Kyle Abbott (0) could deter the dogged right-hander from his quest for survival.

The scorecard of the top-order virtually clarified South Africa’s struggles with nobody prepared to guts it out with Cook even after all reaching double figures except night-watchman Abbott of course.

With a lead of only 70 runs and just four wickets remaining there’s no doubt that Cook and fellow overnight batsman Quinton de Kock will need to remain at the crease at least until the close of the first session on Sunday if the Proteas are to post anything that is remotely worth defending.

The lights are not completely out yet, but it is going to take the sort of effort that won the series initially to haul South Africa out of the hole they currently find themselves in. Whether that sort of resilience is left in a dressing room that has wrestled intense battles on and off the field for the past three weeks already remains to be seen.

Independent Media

South Africa have a mountain to climb if they are to salvage a result from the third Test against Australia in Adelaide after being reduced to 197-6, a lead of 70 runs.

Original source: Proteas staring down the barrel

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