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South Africa vs Australia, 4th Test, Day 4, Review: Hosts stay in command despite strange tactics on day 4

South Africa are just 7 wickets away from winning the series 3-1.

Faf du Plessis
Faf du Plessis of South Africa celebrates his hundred. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

South Africa have assumed firm command on the proceedings of the final Test of the four-match series against the touring Australian side. By the end of the penultimate day of the match, the hosts have managed to push the visitors on the back seat. However, as the game panned out on the day, the Proteas team looked like using some strange tactics. Many wondered what could be the possible reason for the late declaration.

The hosts had a mammoth lead of 267 runs in the first innings. Also, when they stepped on to resume the proceedings on day 4, their overall lead was well beyond the 400-run mark. South Africa had every opportunity to play for a session and then declare the innings. This would have given them a good crack at the Aussies on the day for at least a couple of sessions.

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However, they rather opted to bat till the fag end of the day before eventually declaring on 344/6. They set a mighty target of 612 for the Aussies to win and level the series. And by the end of the day’s play, Australia lost three wickets with not much on the board. Furthermore, the strange tactics from the hosts continued on the field as they chose to keep three fielders on the boundary lines in the final overs. With over 500 runs left in the bank, they could have been a little more aggressive.

Coming to the day’s play, South Africa resumed their overnight score of 134/4 with Dean Elgar and Faf du Plessis at the crease. The two batsmen frustrated the Australian bowlers as they reached their individual fifties. While Elgar played a very patient knock, du Plessis tried to accelerate once in a while. He managed to reach his century as well in quick time.

The partnership was broken by Pat Cummins who managed to dismiss the South African skipper for 120 that came off 178 deliveries with 18 fours and a couple of sixes. He was dismissed early on in the second session on the day. An over later, Nathan Lyon accounted for the dismissal of the other set batsman, Dean Elgar.

Elgar scored 81 off 250 deliveries with ten boundaries and a six. Quinton de Kock (4) fell soon after. Temba Bavuma (35* off 40 balls) and Vernon Philander (33* off 49 deliveries) then provided the final flourish before South Africa declared their innings on 344/6.

Faf du Plessis
Faf du Plessis went on to bat with an injured finger, his IPL participation is in doubt at the moment. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

South African bowlers trouble the Aussie top-order

The run chase of 612 was never going to be easy even on the best of the batting tracks. The solid show by the South African new ball bowlers only made things tougher for Australia. Morne Morkel removed Matt Renshaw cheaply on 5. Soon, Keshav Maharaj managed to get Usman Khawaja lbw on 7. With two top order batsmen back in the hut for single digit scores, the visitors needed a firm partnership.

Joe Burns and Peter Handscomb tried to do that, albeit only in terms of balls consumed. The brief partnership ended with Morkel scalping his second wicket of the day. He dismissed Burns on 42 (80). The play had to be aborted 3 minutes earlier than the scheduled time due to bad light. Handscomb (23*) and Shaun Marsh (7*) walked off with Australia poised at 88/3 by the end of the day’s play. They still need 524 runs to win. South Africa are just 7 wickets away from winning the series 3-1.

Brief Scores:

South Africa 488/10 in 136.5 overs (Markram 152, Bavuma 95*, Cummins 5/83, Lyon 3/182)

Australia 221/10 in 70 overs (Paine 62, Khawaja 53, Philander 3/30, Rabada 3/53)

South Africa 344/6 decl. in 105 overs (Du Plessis 120, Elgar 81, Cummins 4/58, Lyon 2/116)

Australia 88/3 in 30 overs (Burns 42, Morkel 2/18)

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