Australia were closing in on a significant victory and taking a one-nil lead in the series after dominating South Africa at the second Adelaide Test yesterday.
Michael Clarke’s team were in full command after declaring at 267 for eight to leave the Proteas 430 runs for an improbable win off a maximum of 140 overs.
South Africa’s remote hopes of defying history nose-dived with the loss of four wickets, including those of skipper Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla, to leave the Proteas battling for survival in today’s final day.
Australia need to win the three-Test series to take the world number one ranking off South Africa with the final Test starting in Perth on Friday. At the close of the fourth day, South Africa were 77 for four off 50 overs with AB de Villiers on 12 and debutant Faf du Plessis not out 19.
The odds were already firmly stacked against the South Africans as they needed to set a new record for a successful fourth innings run chase at the Adelaide Oval. The existing record is the 315-6 Australia scored 110 years ago to overhaul England, while the Test record winning chase is 418 set by the West Indies over Australia in 2003.
Australian paceman Peter Siddle had extra reason to celebrate his 28th birthday yesterday as Australia neared a prestigious win. “Obviously we are in a good position, there’s still a lot of work tomorrow morning to be done but I think if we can stick to the same stuff we did this afternoon we can finish on a good note,” Siddle said. It was a different mood in the Proteas camp.
“The guys know what they have to do. It’s the highest chase in the history of the game if it was to be achieved,” Proteas assistant coach Russell Domingo said. “It is far away, but South Africans pride themselves on our resilience and we’re going to fight right through to the end, but we know that 350-odd runs on the last day, four wickets down, (a win) is probably out of the window.”
The Australians, bowling with a full head of steam despite the loss of young firebrand paceman James Pattinson, quickly rammed home the advantage of their massive lead.
Australia had South Africa under the pump, taking the wickets of Smith and Amla inside the opening 12 overs to leave the tourists in deep trouble in their daunting run chase.
Smith, who scored 122 in the first innings, was out second ball when he got a thick edge to a Ben Hilfenhaus outswinger and Ricky Ponting snapped up a splendid low catch at second slip.
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