In a Test match that has witnessed some plundering of runs by the home team, the only sigh of relief for Australia was it’s captain’s effort in their first inning. In striking a vital 96-ball 62, Tim Paine not only tried to assuage Australia’s hammering at the hands of Proteas but also compiled a valuable half-century stand with No. 7 Pat Cummins, who crafted 50.
Session 1: Watchful Elgar steers South Africa
But even this fighting effort now seems so incapable of excusing Australia from what looks a certain impending defeat. And unless a miracle happens, then by quite a hefty margin.
But Day 4 of Johannesburg Test was all about South African batsmen piling on Australia’s misery. Resuming on Day 4 of Johannesburg Test after bowling out the tourists for a paltry 221 earlier, Dean Elgar and Faf Du Plessis reached important milestones in hammering what seemed like a tired bunch of Aussie bowlers. But implicit in defining South Africa’s charge over Australia was the ever watchful Dean Elgar’s effort who eventually reached his 11th Test fifty.
Although a day of rarity with no AB De Villiers contributing from the bat, a bloke who’s nearly struck 450 runs in the series, South Africa continued their brazen assault with Faf Du Plessis joining in forces in what was an epic captain’s knock.
Lunch: Faf brings up his 8th ton
Elegant and patient, Du Plessis compiled a quintessential charismatic knock, from the very top draw, eventually losing concentration on 120. By then together with Elgar early on, Faf had done just enough to send Australia on a scuba-diving excursion where they emerged hopelessly dry and minus any moving triumphs.
Bavuma and Philander also contributed runs patiently, making Australia clearly play the patient game as everywhere, fans, critics, and the collective scratched their heads wondering when the declaration would come about.
Bad light stops play
Not a contest that remained untouched by inclement weather, bad light frequently intervened on Day 4 of the Johannesburg Test, giving Australia minor hopes if the contest on an important day could well get cancelled. And even if it eventually turned out so, Australia, by then, had turned out to bat.
Showing a listless effort once again from the bat, it was sad to see Matt Renshaw throw away his wicket, seemingly lacking intent and intensity. Despite facing a tired Morne Morkel who’s counting the number of overs he has to offer, these being the final hours of his cricketing journey, the Aussies had no answer to South Africa’ pace attack.
SA set Australia a nearly impossible 612 to win
After Morne sent Renshaw’s stumps flying for 5, even though eating up 42 deliveries, pressure immediately shifted to Usman Khwaja. But failing to do a repeat of his first inning effort, Australia’s No.3 could offer only 7 before he failed to pick a sharply turning one from Maharaj.
This would mean that being tasked to see through a testing although a truncated period of play would be Peter Handscomb and Joe Burns. The latter, even though stuck to the crease and looked confident of coming up with a vital score could contribute 42 before a sharply incoming seeming delivery from Morkel did him in.
This would leave Handscomb- unbeaten on 23- and a seemingly determined Shaun Marsh- unbeaten on 7- to see Australia through a period where it seemed an imminent collapse was certain.
Not that at 88-3 plagued by a premature end to the day’s pleasure means that Australia is at distance from the inevitable. But in being set a whopping 612 to win, it just looks certain that a relief may not be anywhere in sight unless a Tim Paine or any of the Marsh brothers step in with a big one on the final day.
Till then, it’s all to play, for Australia.