End of Day 3
That’s a wrap, then. The day started relatively evenly, with Australia on 4/112, but no Australian batsman aside from Steve Smith were able to take advantage of the benign conditions. Australia were bowled out for 246, a deficit of 177 runs, after Smith was sawn off by a dubious third-umpire decision following a DRS referral by the South Africans.
Australia had some hope when South Africa fell to 42/2, but from there Hashim Amla carried them to safety, with smaller contributions from AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis. At 192/4, South Africa are 369 runs ahead, with wickets in hand, and two full days left to bowl. The advantage is with them, but we shall all return tomorrow to se whether Australia can summon some meaningful resistance.
Thanks to Scott Heinrich and Russell Jackson, who took us through the earlier sessions, and thanks to you all out there for joining us. Till tomorrow.
47th over: South Africa 192-4 (Amla 93, de Kock 9)
This will be the last over of the day, I believe. Amla maintaining his focus, twice turning Lyon to short leg, looking to score but being watchful at the same time. From there he gives away thoughts of scores, and concentrates on batting out a maiden.
46th over: South Africa 192-4 (Amla 93, de Kock 9)
Four straight down the ground, and Hashim Amla is into the 90s. Can he get to the hundred today? Will he want to? There are five minutes left. He takes a single - that’s 93 now. Quinton de Kock finally gets his first Test boundary, clipping Siddle off his legs to the midwicket boundary. Then he defends the next ball so Amla can take strike.
45th over: South Africa 183-4 (Amla 88, de Kock 5)
That’s enough from Johnson, says the skipper, and brings Nathan Lyon back on. Amla can only manage one run, from the final ball.
44th over: South Africa 182-4 (Amla 87, de Kock 5)
Amla is perhaps starting to tire, it’s been a long day for him. More of his shots are hitting off-centre at the moment. Again they trade singles. De Kock is guarding his stumps with great determination, until the final ball from Siddle, when he tries a mighty cover drive straight to the field.
43rd over: South Africa 179-4 (Amla 85, de Kock 4)
So Johnson’s short-pitched attack continues making life uncomfortable for the batsmen, but they profit to the tune of four singles, and the catch is dropped.
Johnson again - spears a ball down the leg side, Amla gets a big edge while trying to glance, and Haddin had to dive for a one-handed take, but he’s taken far harder catches, it was well within his reach. He just didn’t time it right, and instead of dismissing Amla short of a century, Haddin has taken him one run closer to it.
42nd over: South Africa 175-4 (Amla 83, de Kock 2)
Things are slowing up a little as we approach stumps, with Amla possibly thinking of a century, and the new boy de Kock trying to play himself in. Amla takes a single from Siddle’s third ball, then de Kock gets his second run from his 14th ball as he drives to long off. The South African lead is now 352.
41st over: South Africa 173-4 (Amla 82, de Kock 1)
Amla has been prolific through the covers today, and he drives two more runs from Johnson’s second ball. We’ve just reached what should have been stumps, but the over rate is really slow in this match, so we’ll play the extra half hour, and I’ll report on it if I can convince my brain to stay awake and pay attention. Amla scampers a single from the final ball - Johnson fielded, and I think his throw hit the batsman, but it was very near the stumps.
40th over: South Africa 170-4 (Amla 79, de Kock 1)
A good over, there - a maiden from Siddle to de Kock, and he was in trouble from that last ball when he edged back into his pads and endangered his stumps. The debutant survives though.
39th over: South Africa 170-4 (Amla 79, de Kock 1)
Amla is playing the short ball with a minimum of fuss, evading a couple, before placing one wide of gully for a run. There’s a moment where de Kock shows Johnson his stumps, but manages to get his bat down in time. De Kock gets his innings going with a run from the final ball.
38th over: South Africa 168-4 (Amla 78, de Kock 0)
Siddle beats Amla with the first ball of this new spell, then concedes a single with the third. That brings de Kock on to face his first ball. He’s a left-hander, and Siddle bowling across him gets one that keeps really low and beats the drive. The next is only half collared as well. De Kock will be nervous, especially after his horrible dismissal in the first innings.
37th over: South Africa 167-4 (Amla 76)
That over had begun with four leg byes from Johnson, as his bouncer flicked Amla’s helmet and zoomed away. It cost runs, but showed intent, and from the over’s last ball, Johnson took his 52nd wicket since the start of the last Ashes series.
WICKET! de Villiers 29, c Haddin b Johnson
Johnson gets the breakthrough again! That was a little short and a little wide, but not too much of either. De Villiers tried the uppercut, but it beat him for bounce and pace, and he could only nick behind. There’s one well against the run of play.
36th over: South Africa 162-3 (Amla 76, de Villiers 29)
Amla certainly looks in touch. On track for a century soon, as he drives through cover for four, then plays a perfect straight drive for one. De Villiers likes the look of all this, and gets down on one knee to send another cover drive to the fence. Then again - this is outrageous stuff here, a drive on the up, standing up tall, and another boundary. It makes 13 from the Harris over. Cruise control is activated.
35th over: South Africa 149-3 (Amla 71, de Villiers 21)
Johnson is bowling left-arm over, leaving too many balls to wide of the right-handed de Villiers. Then Johnson gets on the pads, and is taken square for two. A back-foot punch yields a single, then Amla adds another.
34th over: South Africa 145-3 (Amla 70, de Villiers 18)
Ryan Harris is back. Australia need a bit more from the creakiest man in world cricket. But they won’t get it straight away, as Amla plays the most exquisite cover drive, again using the wrists late, opening the face of the bat at the last second to ensure the ball finds the gap in the covers and speeds to the rope. Pure class.
33rd over: South Africa 141-3 (Amla 66, de Villiers 18)
Thwack. De Villiers trying to put Lyon off his length here. Lyon bowls a good ball, but de Villiers goes way back onto his stumps, making it the slightest bit short, then plays a cross-batted swat that sees the ball fly away flat to the rope. The rest of the over he defends. Pulling the strings and seeing if the marionette will dance.
32nd over: South Africa 137-3 (Amla 66, de Villiers 14)
Amla is toying with Clarke now. He is being attended by two short midwickets, so he beats them with a shot to the midwicket fence. Then he takes a single to cover. The cheek. De Villiers gets another run of his own.
31st over: South Africa 131-3 (Amla 61, de Villiers 13)
Just three singles from Lyon’s over. To be clear, when I say “before too long” I mean early tomorrow morning. Though de Villiers and Amla at top pace could almost do the job tonight. 350 would be enough, you’d think, but no doubt this side will push well past 400.
30th over: South Africa 128-3 (Amla 59, de Villiers 12)
De Villiers has already secured his record of 12 consecutive Tests in which he’s scored at least a half century. Him scoring runs in the second innings just seems a bit excessive now. I wouldn’t necessarily mind if he got out - for the sake of the contest, you understand. He doesn’t want to, though, and prefers to cream Siddle down the ground on the off drive. It was better than the ball before, when he glided four to third man. The lead has just jumped to 305, and if these two carry on as they have been, we’ll be close to declaration territory before too long.
29th over: South Africa 120-3 (Amla 59, de Villiers 4)
Lyon is getting a bit short to Amla, and gives up a single and a brace as a result. AB gets a bit tangled facing his first ball from Lyon, then charges the next, but can only inside edge into the ground and then the hand of Smith at short leg. He finally succeeds in getting a run away.
28th over: South Africa 116-3 (Amla 56, de Villiers 3)
With Johnson not producing the magic, and Harris a bit off the boil in this series, the task has fallen to Australia’s less heralded bowlers. Lyon did well in the first innings, and Siddle has got rid of Elgar and du Plessis here. He’s continuing now, bowling tightly, a maiden to de Villiers.
I’m getting some quality emails this series from Ravi Nair. “I decided to support Australia this series, perhaps just prove not all poms are whingers. But after yesterday and today, including the horror of hoping that “Slugger” Warner does well, I’m feeling The Fear. Worrying about the fourth innings. Scared MiJo’s lost his mojo. Thereby proving I’m a whinging pom. Can’t catch a break...” Have faith, my friend. Or a beer.
27th over: South Africa 116-3 (Amla 56, de Villiers 3)
The key man, AB de Villiers, is now in the middle, and with he and Amla going well, South Africa will be very confident indeed. They work three singles from this Lyon over, a lot more controlled than AB’s scratchy start against Lyon last time around.
26th over: South Africa 113-3 (Amla 55, de Villiers 1)
It was beautifully bowled, that over, by a bowler complaining of some soreness. He tied du Plessis down for four balls, then produced the perfect seamer’s stock ball with the fifth.
I don’t think Australia can really hope to limit South Africa to a gettable total, unless there’s a very dramatic collapse, but they have to at least tie South Africa down, disrupting the timeline of the hosts’ plans.
WICKET! du Plessis 24, c Haddin b Siddle
Great ball from Siddle - just as his previous wicket, it was that awkward length that’s just a touch short but not short enough to easily get away, and it moved slightly off the seam. Kissed the edge of the bat, and that was all she wrote. Siddle stepping up here.
25th over: South Africa 112-2 (Amla 55, du Plessis 24)
Some minor surgery is done to the ball with the umpire’s scissors, and it nearly does the trick, as Amla goes right back on his stumps, pads together almost in a French cricket style, and gets an inside edge that both blocks the lbw shout and runs away through a vacant patch of grass behind square. He takes two fortunate runs.
24th over: South Africa 110-2 (Amla 53, du Plessis 24)
The half century is up, and that may be Amla’s shot of the day, a drive through midwicket - his was all timing and bat face, where du Plessis did it earlier with muscle. 52 from 53 balls from Amla, 8 fours. He takes a single to square leg to follow up.
23rd over: South Africa 105-2 (Amla 48, du Plessis 24)
Nathan Lyon returns to try to slow the scoring. South Africa raise the hundred after a couple of singles. It looks like they have a much clearer purpose than in the first innings - they’re looking to set a big lead as quickly as possible, so they can declare with probably five sessions to bowl Australia out. I doubt they’ll need that many, but safety first. As if to emphasise the point, du Plessis skips down the pitch and drives Lyon flat and hard along the ground to the long-on fence. The last four overs have conceded 7, 7, 8, and 8.
22nd over: South Africa 98-2 (Amla 46, du Plessis 19)
I lied, Harris hasn’t come off. Instead the snake-wristed one has just changed ends, relieving Johnson. Different end, same result, says Amla, who punches strongly off the back foot from the first ball of the over, racking up another boundary. These two are purring now. Amla uses a lot of wrist to work two more runs through square leg, that was a contortionist effort, then pushes a single through cover. There’s a sweeper out there now, not sure if he was there before this over, but Amla is scoring heavily out that way. Closing on a half century.
21st over: South Africa 91-2 (Amla 39, du Plessis 19)
Pierre Sidelle replaces Harris in the attack, and quelle horreur - a single to du Plessis, an elegant three to Amla through cover, then a thwacking drive from Faf through wide midwicket. That is quite some shot.
20th over: South Africa 83-2 (Amla 36, du Plessis 10)
Nice shot from Amla, forcing four through cover from Johnson. It confuses the fast man a bit, who follows up with a slower ball, then sends a couple very wide of off stump. Not making Amla play at those. Finally he tries another cutter, and Amla spots it, waits, and square drives gloriously for four more. The lead is out to 260, with Australia and their key bowler both starting to unravel a little.
Of course, Australia have largely got themselves into this difficult position by way of a poor batting effort on a pitch that required patience. One stat tells a lot: Australia had six partnerships that exceeded 33 runs, but not one that exceeded 40.
19th over: South Africa 75-2 (Amla 28, du Plessis 10)
Ryan Harris undoes some excellent work in this new over, conceding just a single from five well-directed balls, by shooting the last ball down the leg side, and it flies away through fine leg for four leg byes after bouncing off du Plessis.
18th over: South Africa 70-2 (Amla 27, du Plessis 10)
Johnson gets a little more menace into his next over, which du Plessis opens well, that jumping, across-the-line flick that he plays to bunt the ball toward midwicket. It’s an easy way to find a run or two against the shortish ball - this time, du Plessis gets a brace. Amla gets a bouncer, over the helmet of Amla, who flinches away from it. The next is only tamely short, and easy to play off the hip for one.
17th over: South Africa 66-2 (Amla 26, du Plessis 7)
Bad luck for Harris, a very sharp ball that spat at du Plessis, pushing forward, and took a thick edge to third man for four. He shovels a single out to square leg afterwards. Amla had earlier taken a run with a very controlled pull shot. His form has been off lately, but he’s looked very good so far today.
16th over: South Africa 60-2 (Amla 25, du Plessis 2)
We’re away in the final session - apparently 41 more overs are required today, with the run rates quite slow. I’m not sure of our chances of getting through them. Mitchell Johnson will bowl the first of these, and it’s a bit of a warm-up over, sharp enough but nothing scary, while du Plessis and Amla each profit by one run.
A matter of intrigue
So it’s been a good day’s cricket thus far. Plenty of wickets, some entertaining Australian lower-order runs, a big South African lead, and now a couple of early wickets to peg them back again. It’s interesting to see Australia thoroughly behind in a Test for the first time since their England trip last year - a mark of their maturity will be whether they can salvage even a draw out of this match. It’s also a test of South Africa’s temperament - will they take advantage of their dominant position and go assertively after a result, or drift as they did in their first innings? Questions. They’re good because you get to use squiggly punctuation.
The elements of style
Thank-you to Russell Jackson for the past session of stirring commentary - who doesn’t enjoy a good anecdote about Nathan Lyon’s spikes? As for taking you home in style - if I may break the fourth wall, a la Kevin Spacey - ‘style’ tonight consists of two slices of microwaved leftover pizza and a very unattractive knee rug. It is late at night in Melbourne, Australia, and literally every other person in the city except for a couple of emergency room doctors is down in the CBD, partying on and enjoying themselves at the summer White Nights festival, in which street parties and art installations and music and events happen throughout the central city all night long.
I am not there. I am here. With you. And the rug. And the aftertaste of spicy chicken pizza. I don’t want you to think I’m aggrieved, I just think it’s best if we’re upfront with each other. If any of you have anything you want to get off your chest, you can email me - manually refresh your browser for the address. I can let you use a pseudonym if your confession is particularly spicy. Like the pizza. Sigh.
15th over: South Africa 58-2 (Amla 24, du Plessis 1) - and that is TEA
Lyon is back to bowl what looks like being the final over of the session and has Faf du Plessis forward and watchfully defending. I’m not sure what is wrong with short leg ace Alex Doolan but Steve Smith is under the helmet now. Lyon appears to be staling for time by cleaning his spikes which seems a totally bizarre strategy. Surely they’d want to get in another over if they could? I know I wanted Lyon to slow down but this is ridiculous.
After a single to du Plessis, Amla glances fine and down the outfield slope for a boundary and then sees his side through to tea.
235 is the lead for the Proteas and that is it for me tonight. Stand by for Geoff Lemon, who will be taking you through to stumps in style.
14th over: South Africa 53-2 (Amla 20, du Plessis 0)
Just when he’d looked vulnerable Amla pulls out a truly sublime cover drive, stroking Siddle away to the fence with an absolute stunner. He’s clearly not in form right now but that was a shot from the top shelf. Soon he’s playing another and it’s almost identical, executed with an economy of movement in both his feet and perfectly still head. Wonderful batting from a master craftsman.
13th over: South Africa 45-2 (Amla 12, du Plessis 0)
Though Amla is normally a proficient player of spin, Lyon has him in all sorts here, going past the edge of the bat and even Haddin’s gloves from one that went straight on. That came after Haddin thought he’d stumped the South African.
It’s an interesting little period coming up before tea with Amla just hanging in there and the new man du Plessis yet to establish himself. The Aussies will be desperate to prize one more wicket before the break.
12th over: South Africa 42-2 (Amla 10, du Plessis 0)
Before that wicket, Mike Haysman had said that Siddle wass “too straight” in being worked to the leg side for an Amla single, which reminded of Gary Naylor’s comment from yesterday. With protection in the deep he is actually well within his rights to attack the stumps but instinct does tell me that it’s a dicey strategy unless it’s faultlessly executed. The risk always looms that all you’re going to achieve is easing the batsman into a comfort zone in which they’re able to pick off singles at regular intervals.
The Elgar wicket changes all of that. As you were, Mr Siddle.
WICKET! Elgar c Haddin b Siddle 16 (Australia 42-2)
After four probing deliveries Siddle tempts Elgar into a false stroke when he lunges forward at a ball he might have left alone and edges behind to Haddin.
11th over: South Africa 41-1 (Elgar 16, Amla 10)
Lyon has a slip, a short leg and a short cover in place to Elgar and gives the ball a healthy amount of flight to tempt the batsman forward. He seems far less comfortable negotiating the spinner than he did the pacemen and is all elbows and angled bat as he tries unsuccessfully to work a single.
At least he’s friendly with the fans...
10th over: South Africa 41-1 (Elgar 16, Amla 10)
Peter Siddle relieves Harris at the other end for his first trundle of the day and he’ll have around half an hour to make an impact on this game. Amla starts by clipping him for two and then one on the leg side. He’s only got the one slip in place, Siddle, and the Australian viewing balcony is just as spartan with team manager Gavin Dovey tapping away at a laptop and an unsmiling Craig McDermott motionless behind him. It’s nothing like England’s arsenal of analysts, anyway.
9th over: South Africa 35-1 (Elgar 13, Amla 7)
Johnson’s first burst now over, Lyon enters the fray in the ninth over and sprints through it perhaps a little too quickly. It’s my one remaining knock on his bowling actually. He really could afford to slow things down a little between deliveries.
8th over: South Africa 34-1 (Elgar 13, Amla 6)
Proving me more or less wrong in a flash, Elgar plays a quite wonderful late cut for a boundary when Harris sends a half-tracker wide of off stump. He reminds me a bit of Ed Cowan actually and unlike most people, I intend that as a compliment. He’s ungainly but effective in blunting the impact of the new ball.
7th over: South Africa 30-1 (Elgar 9, Amla 6)
With Johnson steaming in, Dean Elgar is full of intent with an uppish pull shot but his timing is typically askew, but he gets enough on it so that the ball plugs in the out-field for three. Amla finishes the over with a boundary through gully, which came from the thick edge of his defensive prod. Johnson is full of advice for Amla and seemingly anyone else within a 50 metre radius.
It also appears that JOHN STARBUCK is actually john starbuck, and only my computer has a problem with his name. “I can’t understand it. You’re the only person, it seems, who receives my name in caps. I got a polite email back from Geoff Lemon about my recommendation of ‘Speak, old parrot’ by Danny Abse, which contains a poem about a cricket bat, and he didn’t mention any problems. Nor did Scott this morning.”
Why doesn’t anyone send me poems? I’m a sensitive type too, I swear.
6th over: South Africa 21-1 (Elgar 5, Amla 1)
More tech updates from Johns Bains who says, “Great tip for the radio coverage on ABC Australia. To help with your new-found technical consultancy, I’m watching on SkyGo which does not have the benefit of the Red Button option.”
While we’re at it can anyone recommend the best way, from both a software and hardware point of view, that I can convert VHS tapes into digital files that I may or may not be wanting to upload to a certain video sharing website? And before you ask, yes, it’s porn. Cricket porn.
In the meantime Ryan Harris, frequent star of top shelf cricket porn himself, bowls the kind of tidy maiden that you wouldn’t necessarily pay $12.95 per month for.
5th over: South Africa 21-1 (Elgar 5, Amla 1)
Amla does enter the innings at three and quite surprisingly so. He’s pinching a single to get off the mark and as he does so, I see from the replay that Johnson’s wicket celebration was actually much wordier than mere grunting. They really don’t like the South African skipper, never have. After Elgar rides a bouncer quite effectively, Johnson looks to give him a spray as well but it falls on deaf ears and a turned back. Elgar looks like the kind of player who has been told he’s rubbish so often that it has no impact on him, actually. I think I like him.
WICKET! Smith b Johnson 14 (South Africa 20-1)
Graeme Smith’s leg stump is now splattered across the turf as Mitchell Johnson finally does the right hing by his skipper and draws an inside edge from the giant South African. He’s pretty happy with that Johnson, so he marauds down the wicket grunting at his deposed foe.
4th over: South Africa 20-0 (Smith 14, Elgar 5)
Christopher Blunt has an even better suggestion for frustrated UK cricket lovers: “re Dan Lucas query on live cricket - it’s live by pressing the red button on SS3.” Anyone else wishing to air their technical queries, I will operate this OBO as a kind of unconventional IT help desk, without the dismissive attitude or withholding complex.
Back in the middle, Elgar nudges an awful-looking single and Smith edges streakily for a boundary.
3rd over: South Africa 14-0 (Smith 9, Elgar 4)
Dean Elgar, probably buoyed by his impressive first innings effort, moves his weight into a compact cover drive and Johnson throws his head back in frustration as it races to the boundary.
John Goldstein has the same TV issue as Dan and says, “Yes Sky are showing the match and it’s bloody annoying. It’s not like they haven’t got 3 other channels they could use. Do you know which Aussie radio station is doing the commentary?”
ABC Grandstand are covering it. I am reliably informed that the best way for UK residents to access their coverage is via TuneIn Radio.
2nd over: South Africa 8-0 (Smith 8, Elgar 0)
Ryan Harris starts just as unspectacularly as Johnson, dragging one short and conceding two as Smith cuts late. The bowler doesn’t quite hit his straps early and faces further frustration with both batsman making him wait at the top of his mark. The umpires might step in on this issue soon because the Aussies are making a lot of noise about the tactic.
Despite my ribbing about his email account capitalisation, JOHN STARBUCK is back and says, “After deciding whether or not to insert the opposition, I reckon enforcing the follow-on or not is the riskiest thing for a captain. Fortunately for Smith he doesn’t have to decide this time, but it’s a nice position to be in. The problems of deciding which bowlers and fields to use depend on how much of a world-class side you have, when the trick lies in keeping them all happy. Both Smith and Clarke seem to be quite good at that.”
You don’t want to flog your assets JOHN, that much is true. Hang on, that doesn’t sound quite right...
1st over: South Africa 5-0 (Smith 4, Elgar 0)
Unusually, Johnson actually takes the new ball in a literal sense and will bowl the first over. There’s quite a feisty exchange between Smith and Clark (the latter does most of the talking, to be honest) after the Proteas skipper stops Johnson in his run so that the band can finish the national anthem. Once Johnson finally releases the first delivery it’s dispatched off Smith’s pads for a boundary.
He let his captain down a little there, Johnson. Clarke would have wanted that up around the throat of his opposite number but the bowler erred.
Niche 90s cricket gags anyone?
Australia all out for 246
What else happened in that final over for Australia? Siddle scooped Morkel over mid-on for a near-boundary with the kind of stroke more commonly seen in a senior’s division tennis match. Harris then flicked Morkel off his pads and was beginning to look every bit the all-rounder that he started his first-class career as before his dismissal.
It’s well below par from the Aussies but they also know that their opposition are currently walking wounded, with paceman Wayne Parnell hobbled and Hashim Amla’s ability to even hold a cricket bat now compromised. South Africa won’t go in all guns blazing with the bat but should be wary of the impending weather threat on Day 5. They hold a 177-run lead but further twists and turns may yet await.
WICKET Harris c du Plessis b Morkel 26 (Australia all out for 246)
Harris goes for one boundary too many, sending a thick edge to second slip after trying to crash Morkel through cover. An entertaining a profitable 37-run 10th wicket partnership comes to an end.
56th over: Australia 238-9 (Harris 21, Siddle 8)
Smith has had enough of Philander’s half-trackers so brings Dale Steyn back into the attack to finish off the Australian innings. He’s jagging the ball back alarmingly off the seam and goes narrowly short of relieving Siddle of his off stump.
Is this really what is happening over there in the UK?
55th over: Australia 235-9 (Harris 20, Siddle 7)
Sensing Harris’s will to get on with things, the ever-defensive Smith removes one of Morkel’s slips and stations him at third man for the wild top edge. Morkel responds by bowling a kind of reverse Harmison, which shoots away down the leg side on the full and is only stopped from racing away for four byes by the athletic lunge of AB de Villiers.
He’d been coming around the wicket, Morkel, which quite unnecessarily limited his potential modes of dismissing the tailenders. At Smith’s insistence, he shifts back over the wicket. Siddle remains calm through the upheaval and pats away a valuable boundary from the final delivery of the over.
54th over: Australia 228-9 (Harris 20, Siddle 2)
What a way to avoid the follow on; Philander’s blood-lust has possibly been triggered by the sight of Morkel’s rib-rattlers and he’s digging in too short to Harris, who mightily thumps him for another cross-batted boundary to the leg side. This time it’s a six. Less emphatic is a late cut that races past gully for four, but Harris is doing the trick here late in the Australian innings.
His teammates are unmoved in the sheds and cutting a very glum figure indeed.
53rd over: Australia 218-9 (Harris 10, Siddle 2)
Morkel is bowling with some serious wheels here, as his contemporaries might say. He’s nudging the 150 kmph mark and mostly attempting to bounce them off the helmets of this Australian pair. After the review, which came from a short one directed at Siddle’s ribs, he’s again hemming the number eleven back and nearly forcing him to bunt a catch to square leg.
It was worth a try with only one wicket remaining, but no dice for Morkel.
Morkel is urged into a more spirited appeal for a caught behind dismissal down the leg side to Siddle but it doesn’t look like there’s much in it.
52nd over: Australia 216-9 (Harris 9, Siddle 1)
“I like to see men charging in bowling fast,” says Michael Holding. He makes another valid point too, noting that genuinely fast bowlers don’t physically last for long so we need to enjoy them when they come along. Personally I’m loving this intimidatory bowling. It’s nothing worse than the Aussies would dish out themselves.
Harris has seen enough of Philander to know that the best form of self-preservation is attack, so he artlessly swats him wide of mid-on for a boundary.
51st over: Australia 210-9 (Harris 4, Siddle 0)
Morkel is doing his best to morph into a right-handed Johnson here, roughing up the number eleven Siddle with some short stuff. Lots of it.
Fred Hatman is probably loving that because a mere matter of minutes ago he emailed in to say, “I’m doing my darndest to be civilised here but that “badge-ball” from Morne which landed on Mitch’s bonce had the whole of SA behind it and symbolises some pay-back, not only for Johnson’s impudence in bowling quite nastily at SuperSport Park but also for the rank untoward conduct of his team-mates during the Ashes. They like it hard, they get it hard. I’m loving this Test match.”
I’m not saying sledging or bouncers are great for the image of the game, but I enjoy watching both to be totally honest. Am I a bad person?
WICKET! Smith c de Villiers b Morkel 49 (Australia 209-9)
Smith is gone. The snicko reading wasn’t exactly conclusive and hot spot was as useful as the ICC, but Aleem Dar thinks he’s seen enough to give it out. He took a while and the decision prompts an angry shake of the head from Aussie skipper Michael Clarke, but Smith has to go. To the naked eye it looked out, but I’m not sure the prosecution had enough evidence for a conviction there.
Graeme Smith has gone hard and gone early with his review call here. He thinks that Morkel has Smith caught behind and the vision says he might be right.
50th over: Australia 209-8 (Smith 49, Harris 4)
And we’re back. Ryan Harris is the new batsman and he starts in style, flogging Duminy’s half-tracker past square leg for a boundary. He’s a capable batsman, Harris. Smith is going to need him to stick around if the Aussies are going to drag themselves back into this game.
Day Five Prognostications
This is interesting for two reasons. First and foremost, it may influence the kind of target South Africa sets the Aussies. Secondly....spoiler alert...Rob Smyth is due in these environs on Day 5 and it will be he who has to potentially fill the dead air. That could actually be fun. More fun than Australia losing, slightly less fun than a miraculous comeback.
Mark Waugh update
Mark Waugh is getting wistful about Wayne Rooney’s weekly salary on the Fox Sports panel. I love it when he gets going about modern player wages. It clearly irks him that he wasn’t around for T20 gravy train.
Less amusing is the sight of Damien Martyn being dismissed by Allan Donald in the Sydney Test of the 1993-94 Australian home series, which Fox have just cut to in an apparent attempt to further curse Australia in this game. Ergh, they’re even showing the bit where the Proteas players carry Fanie de Villiers off the ground on their shoulders.
I’d be all for AB de Villiers being chaired off though. At the end of every game.
This is how badly Australia are doing this morning
Cricket Australia have just started ignoring the Test in order to focus on the positives, like Ben Hilfenhaus taking a hat-trick in the Shield. He’ll still probably remain stranded for eternity on 99 Test wickets though, the poor bloke.
It’s appropriate that Bill Hicks currently appears in the corner of your screen because some of those Australian dismissals this morning were pure comedy. Was Mitchell Johnson actually playing for spin from JP Duminy? If so the compliment backfired. The specialist batsmen merely misfired, with Steve Smith now left to carry the can and try to drag Australia beyond the follow-on target.
Will Graeme Smith even enforce it? Probably not. As Scott said, I am indeed Russell Jackson and you can contact me on email@example.com with all of your observations, conspiracy theories, Ponzi schemes and baseless rumours about Graeme Smith.
And that, indeed, is the lunch break
South Africa continue where they left off the previous day, worrying Australia’s batsmen with sincere and aggressive fast bowling.
Four more wickets in the session, and admittedly a fair few more runs for Australia, but South Africa remain clearly in the ascendancy and it will require some effort from Australia to get something out of this Test.
It’s been a pleasure keeping you company. I now hand you over to Russell Jackson for the afternoon session.
Wicket! Johnson b Duminy 27 (Australia 205-8)
Johnson plays all around a straight one from Duminy and is bowled, South Africa striking on the stroke of lunch to underline their authority.
49th over: Australia 204-7 (Smith 48, Johnson 27)
Smiles and laughs (in the crowd) all round as Morkel buries a short one into the ribs of Johnson. You give it, you get it. And no complaints from Mitch.
The mercury rises even further next ball as a straight, fast bouncer hits Johnson on the helmet en route to the keeper. South Africa’s convinced they have him caught behind, but, no, it was all helmet.
Fiery stuff from Morkel. Johnson takes the roughing up in his stride. That’s good crikeet, is that.
Here’s Ned Hurley: “A stadium with a ‘duck pond end’ and the band in attendance playing ‘Because I Got High’ by Afroman ... only in South Africa.”
48th over: Australia 202-7 (Smith 47, Johnson 26)
More runs to Johnson, who collects three off Duminy to third man to take Australia past 200.
47th over: Australia 199-7 (Smith 47, Johnson 23)
Morkel back on now for Steyn, who must be shagged after putting has back, and someone else’s into a great spell of fast bowling.
Smith gets a bit of luck as one that seems to keep a bit low splits keeper and slip to earn four more.
46th over: Australia 195-7 (Smith 43, Johnson 23)
Duminy continues his spell but to little effect, Johnson latching onto a fuller one and sending it down the ground for four.
Mitch follows that up with a nice six to the same part of the ground.
Australia continue to score quickly, and crucially with Parnell off the ground with a suspected groin injury.
45th over: Australia 184-7 (Smith 42, Johnson 13)
More devilish reverse swing from Steyn. Smith really just looks to survive, ensuring he doesn’t leave a gaping hole between bat and pad as Haddin did.
Steyn ends the over with a horrid half-volley to Johnson, who is plenty good enough to send it racing to the long-off fence.
44th over: Australia 175-7 (Smith 40, Johnson 6)
Four runs to Johnson, who gleefully does away with Duminy’s half-volley.
Gervase Greene email this prior to John Starbuck’s comment in the 38th over about the follow-on, and seeing as he sent it to the wrong email address I reckon it’s worth publishing now, as in some kind of way he’d beaten JB to the punch: “We are about to see it now- history’s awful burden. I am not sure when it will end, but clearly it has a way to go yet. I call it the VVS Laxman factor: Teams who are more than 300 ahead have a fit of funk, still terrified to give away a critical advantage and actually, shockingly send back in to bat a team that barely managed to make half that in the day just gone.”
43rd over: Australia 171-7 (Smith 40, Johnson 2)
Smith keeps his shots in the locker against a probing Steyn, whose reverse swing is presenting a clear and present danger.
Oh, and here’s the carnage of Haddin’s dismissal at the bloodied hands of the brutal Steyn. I speak figuratively. He’s actually a lovely bloke who takes great pride in the cleanliness of all his extremities.