Captain Pat, with his threat, Hazlewood sends a reminder of the order as the Australians close.
We had to wait a day and a half to play more after bad light lag, rain delays and wet pitch delays, but the action packed day 4 was worth the wait.
The Pat Cummins Bowl is worth watching. This is what we were hoping for when we got a Test captain – the first fast bowler in more than half a century to catch the ball and start the game at a crunch time.
His spell in the last session was great – it was fast, it was dynamic, it was hostile, it was a back and forth swing. Good luck, drummers.
Haya Zondo’s set-up was superb – rounding the wicket, he bounced and unsettled him again and again, then nailed a yorker when he was in doubt. It was an absolute beauty.
Josh Hazlewood was good as well, he really set the tone early with the new ball. His first game was like he hadn’t spent half the summer in the field – it was quick, he was in the perfect channel and he beat the outside edge time and time again.
He looked as though he was frustrated by the injury and hadn’t played all week, genuinely on fire. His full deliveries in particular were sensational – they were in the air and moved slightly off the wicket and they hit the stumps a few times. This was Josh at his best.
With suggestions being made this summer that Scott Boland should have been picked, I can’t help but wonder if he was just trying to set a record for Patty Cummins and then the Rapids in Australia. He certainly came a long way for that today.
It was scary, it was hostile, it was Halewood Hall of control and delayMT returned.
There is also enough space for spinners in the field. Keep in mind that this is actually 2 or 3 days since it covered most of the game. He hasn’t been blessed with sunshine or fast bowlers to do the rough, but Nathan Lyon and Ashton Agar have enough incentive to work.
In particular, I want Agar to get into the counters. He played very consistently, but not the frenetic turner we expected, simply because of the lack of days and the lack of playing time for him.
I want him to pick up some wickets to improve his performance in India. We could have bowled all five bowlers and won the extra Boland option, which would have been handy. If Agar can have a really good day and prove that he is the second spinner behind Lyon, he will be hard to ignore in the first Test in February.
As far as I can see, the next gate is important. I was impressed with Simon Harmer’s last half hour with the bat – he repeated his defense but was dropped when he got a half ball. The rest of the South Africans should take a leaf out of their book – block good deliveries, but if you lose something in the scoring area, drop it.
We saw the Proteas attack Lyon a bit, with Themba Bavuma and Zondo hitting him for a couple of sixes when he was too short, but I don’t think we’ll see much aggression on the final day. Every goal without a goal brings them closer to a draw, so I would expect a tight defence.
I don’t see them getting to 275 to win the straightaway, so they will have to be at their best to get 98 overs against the Australian attack. They have to show that they are fighting.
But if that first gate comes early, I can see them falling; where they will be done with two or three wickets left for lunch. The new ball will be a factor, spin will be a factor, and then backswing in 25 degree heat with dry terrain will also be a factor later in the day.
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I still believe the Aussies will win this last 14 wickets – but this could be a really exciting first finish to a Test summer!
The only downside of the day was the controversial DRS again – Steve Smith’s ‘catch’ of Dean Elgar seemed clean. The real shame for me was that this was one of my biggest pay slips.
I still don’t think the cameras are at the right level – one corner looked like it was filtering through the grass, but it’s still not clear to me. I want technology to take the next step and prove it in one way or another.
This adds to the problem of Harmer falling from Marnus Labuschagne on Day 1, which was shown by Channel Seven cameras. I think it’s easier for on-field umpires to say no to controversial catches because we hear now that a soft signal carries less weight, and that’s down to the third umpire. But this makes it difficult to change the decision to cancel the meeting and give it.
However, Elgar failed to capitalize on the opportunity. His captain’s average continues to dip into the mid-20s and throughout his career, apart from a big hundred in Perth in 2016, Australia has really struggled.
He is not an active captain, so I think he will be under pressure to keep that position. That might be a blessing in disguise for him not having to deal with it—maybe it’ll bring his bat back to a 40 average. It was a bad tour for him.
There weren’t too many positives for the Proteas, but we managed to fight back to get this test. Either way, they will be hoping to make it to the final of the World Test Championship, but this will at least give them a sniff and confidence for future Tests.
Other than that, not interesting. The problem with the team they have chosen is that it is an older team with no experience at the top level. Guys like Zondo and Sarel Erwee are already in their 30s, so you can’t see them being in the top six long-term.
Kyle Verrain looked good again – he was definitely a big plus. Marco Jansen is technically struggling against a short court, but he is improving and shows great promise with club and ball. Harmer has looked good with the ball, but even if he doesn’t take wickets, he’s also good with the bat: in South Africa, you’re likely to only play one spinner, so he’ll definitely call Keshav Maharaj for the spot.
It is clear that Henrich Nortier also raised his profile.
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