Part-time leg-spinner Steve Smith took the key wicket of Faf du Plessis as Australia closed on a series-deciding victory on the fifth and final day of the third and final Test against South Africa yesterday.
South Africa were 201-7 at tea at Newlands in Cape Town, with Australia needing three more wickets in the remaining 33 overs to seal their first series win against the world’s No. 1 Test team since 2008-2009.
It was a day of stubborn resistance by South Africa — who started on 71-4 — having abandoned any idea of chasing a target of 511.
A.B. de Villiers and nightwatchman Kyle Abbott defied Australia’s bowlers for just over an hour and a half during an extended morning’s play, before Abbott, who batted fo r 116 minutes and faced 89 balls in scoring 7, did not play a shot to a ball from James Pattinson which cut back and clipped the top of his off-stump.
The hosts’ hopes rested with De Villiers and Faf du Plessis, two of the key figures when South Africa fought out a draw from a similar position in Adelaide, Australia, in November 2012.
De Villiers, normally a free-scoring batsman, had started his innings after tea on the fourth day, but was dismissed in the fifth over of the morning with the second new ball when he edged Ryan Harris to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.
He had batted for 326 minutes and faced 228 balls in an effort reminiscent of De Villiers’ innings in Adelaide when he batted for more than four hours and faced 220 balls in scoring 33.
On that occasion, Du Plessis, making his debut, saved the match with a marathon innings of 110 not out.
Du Plessis was again resolute, but shortly before tea he was trapped leg before wicket to the first ball of a new spell by Smith, who pitched a ball on a good length on leg-stump, turning slightly toward middle, with Du Plessis misjudging the line.
Du Plessis sought a review, but it only confirmed that umpire Kumar Dharmasena had made the right decision.
Du Plessis batted for 157 minutes and faced 109 balls in making 47.