After a day and a half of waiting through the rain and darkness, play has finally begun at the Sydney Cricket Ground. And after a three-match wait through injury, Josh Hazlewood has resumed his Test career. He came out with fire on a damp surface and launched a slide that had South Africa’s first innings 149 for six at stumps, still 326 behind Australia’s declaration score of 475 for four.
With play not starting until 1:45 pm on day four, Australia opted not to bat as they last faced the ball on day two. That left Usman Khawaja unbeaten on 195, painfully short of a maiden Test double century. With 157 overs to go, the Aussies decided that chasing a win was the priority. All was merry before the game as visitors donated pink caps to sign to raise funds for the McGrath Foundation. Once the action resumed, it was anything but.
Hazlewood’s early efforts set the tone. His opening two overs were almost unplayable, hissing the ball from the seam past the left-handed Dean Elgar, the South Africa captain jerking his head away from the line of the ball as he leveled it again and again. His release seemed a matter of time and Hazlewood duly slipped Steve Smith for the third time. But just as he did with Simon Harmer’s low catch in the first innings, the third umpire, Richard Kettleborough, ruled that Smith’s diving one-handed stunner had let the ball touch the turf after he had fingered it, a letter. -a judgment of law that was at least consistent.
Does not matter. Hazlewood needed just 10 more balls to Elgar when he rounded the wicket to pin him with a wild bouncer which he gloved to wicketkeeper Alex Carey for an overhead catch on 15. His opening partner Sarel Erwee made another start from 18 but fell to the spin of Nathan Lyon. , into the attack with the eighth over and a strike at 18. Another left-hander, Erwee, left a break around the wicket which, though it turned, didn’t quite miss its off-stump. By then, Pat Cummins was back for a second spell and Heinrich Klaasen was brought in to deliver a chest ball to Carey for two.
Temba Bavuma and Khaya Zondo decided that positivity was the way to respond and each hit Lyon for multiple sixes whenever the length was short enough for them to pull. They added 48 either side of the tea break before Bavuma peppered another excellent delivery from Hazlewood, which straightened enough to tempt him to play. Zondo was fooled by Cummins’s pace and cleverness, right-armed around the wicket to the right-hander as if to fend him off, then lunged for a yorker that smashed him on the boot. Bavuma made 35, Zondo 39: both needed to go on.
Cummins was not done there. The third wicket came two overs later, his line outside the off-stump and a seam movement to Kyle Verreynn for 19, a hard hit that resulted in an advantage for Smith that no umpire could challenge. It was 137 for six and while Marco Jansen was roughed up by a short ball from Cummins, he batted six overs with Simon Harmer to the stumps.
That means South Africa’s 126 avoid Sunday’s resumption with four wickets in hand. If they reach it, Australia would have to make a very bold statement to give themselves any chance of chasing victory. If they fall short, Australia will surely send them back for the next bat and look to win by an innings. With the game starting early, it should be 98 overs for 14 wickets. That would be quite a feat for any bowling team, but it will still take serious South African opposition to avoid it.
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