Australia will have to produce the greatest run chase in Test history to beat South Africa in the third Test at the WACA Ground and claim the top spot in the Test rankings.
Set 632 to win after the Proteas were finally dismissed for 569 in their second innings on the back of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers centuries, Australia were 40 without loss at stumps on the third day here yesterday.
The Australians still need a further 592 runs to win with two days to play.
David Warner will resume today’s fourth day on 29 with Ed Cowan not out nine.
It was only the second time in Test history Australia had been set over 600 runs to win. The previous occasion was Don Bradman’s first Test against England in 1928, when they folded for 66 all out chasing 742 runs. The current record for a successful fourth innings run chase remains 418 by the West Indies against Australia at St John’s in 2003.
However, de Villiers said the South Africans were not taking victory for granted, having themselves chased down 414 for the loss of just four wickets at the same venue in 2008.
“We are aware that if they we go the full length of the Test match they will come quite close,” he said.
“They won’t be giving it away, we are aware of that and we are not arrogant in any way whatsoever.
“We have a lot of hard work ahead of us tomorrow (Monday).”
Hoping for a miracle
Australian coach Mickey Arthur, who was at the helm of the South African team in that 2008 run chase, said the home team believed they could create history. “We bat for two days we win,” he said.
“All we can do now is bat session for session and we have got to believe we can do it or there is no point rocking up tomorrow. The wicket is good and it gets better here, it is not going to crack up and there is no uneven bounce.
“A couple of big partnerships and you never know what might happen.”
Amla led the way for the Proteas with the bat and looked certain to notch a third Test double century, but on 196 he fell to a superb reflex caught-and-bowled from Mitchell Johnson (4-110).
It was Amla’s 18th Test century. After resuming at 99 not out on the third day, Amla took just three balls to reach triple figures.
De Villiers reached his 14th Test century in memorable fashion just before tea, audaciously reverse-sweeping spinner Nathan Lyon for three successive boundaries to reach the milestone.
He eventually fell for 169 as he appeared to tire, caught behind from the bowling of Mitchell Starc, having faced 184 balls, hitting 21 fours and three sixes.