TELFORD VICE, Hobart
SELDOM will Kagiso Rabada and Kyle Abbott bowl so well for as little reward as they did on the third day of the second test at Bellerive Oval in Hobart on Monday.
Seldom, too, will a batting unit turn their fortunes around as starkly as Australia did.
Shot out for 85 in their first innings, they were 121/2 when bad light forced the close seven overs early on Monday.
Australia were due to resume on Tuesday in a hole 120 runs deep – that’s how far they were behind. But they coulda, woulda, shoulda have been in much deeper trouble.
Abbott took 2/55 from his 19 overs and deserved three more. Rabada’s nine overs went for just 19. On other days he would have taken five.
And that would have been that: match and series to South Africa.
Instead, Usman Khawaja stood firm even as ball after ball skewed off the seam and screamed past the edge. Ditto Steve Smith.
Khawaja was 56 not out with Smith on 18 in a stand of 42 when the umpires called off play.
“I’m quite happy with what we’ve achieved but the game’s only just gone past halfway,” Quinton de Kock said after stumps.
“There’s still a lot of work ahead of us.”
De Kock himself earned the credit for a fair chunk of the work already done with his 104, his second test century and the fifth consecutive time in the format that he has reached 50.
He and Temba Bavuma resumed with South Africa and 171/5 and took their partnership to 144 before, in the fourth over before lunch, De Kock was bowled through the gate by Josh Hazlewood.
Nine balls into the second session Bavuma went for 74 when he was hurried into his stroke by Joe Mennie and spooned a catch to point to give the debutant his maiden wicket.
Vernon Philander’s bright 32, studded with six fours, was the best of the rest of South Africa’s batting in an innings that was over 40 minutes after lunch with the last five wickets in a total of 326 crashing for 50 runs.
Hazlewood, who would struggle to get a game for South Africa, exploited the seaming conditions well enough to take 6/89.
So what would the visitors achieve in the 50 overs that remained in the day’s play, especially considering the havoc they caused in Australia’s first innings?
A strong hint of what the answer would be was written in lights on the scoreboard with just the fourth ball of the innings, a legside loosener from Abbott that Joe Burns chased and edged to be caught behind.
But it would take another 22.2 overs for the next wicket to fall, and it did so in bizarre fashion.
Abbott steamed in to David Warner and again the ball veered down leg.
This time it smacked the left-hander on the thigh pad, looped upward, hit him on the elbow – and from there clattered into his stumps to bowl him for 45 and put paid to a stand of 79.
Dare the South Africans dream of another deluge of wickets?
Dream on. Khawaja batted as if he was on a beach – which earned him the ire of Philander – and Smith hardly put a foot wrong in the 13 overs they faced together before the forced close.
“It’s good for us that we made them bowl a lot of balls,” Hazlewood said. “They got away with not bowling many in the first innings.”
To take two wickets on Monday, South Africa bowled 19 more deliveries than they sent down to snap up all 10 on Saturday.
How many more they will have bowled before these words see the light of day will be key to the outcome of this match.