Match summary and opinion
Shadab Akhtar Rabbani
South Africa came into this match under-fire after the first game loss at Durban. They have impressed the pundits with the way they have bounced back in the series. Australia won the toss and chose to bat first. All was going well for the Australians on Day 1 as they plundered 98 runs with the loss of one wicket at lunch. With a good run-rate and nine wickets in hand, Australia looked set to do justice to their decision of batting first and get a big score on the board.
But the home side had other plans and it all started in the second session of Day 1 when paceman Kagiso Rabada dismissed Australian skipper Steve Smith. He went on to pick five wickets in quick succession to help South Africa restrict the visitors to a below-par score of 243.
South Africa had to come into bat on Day 1 and lost an early wicket of Aiden Markram, a setback as he was the centurion at the previous game. Early on Day 2, Kagiso Rabada, the night watchman chipped in with valuable 29 runs before Hashim Amla and Dean Elgar consolidated the innings with patient half-centuries. This set up the platform for AB de Villiers to come in and play freely. He kept losing his partners on the other end but got into a good partnership with Vernon Philander lower down the order to get South Africa ahead. En route a 139 run lead, AB de Villiers struck a magnificent hundred and remained unbeaten at 126. Keshav Maharaj also scored a quick fire 30 to add salt to the wounds of the Australians as the host gained a big advantage in the first innings.
South African camp was dealt with a blow as Rabada was charged with a misconduct of ICC rules as he seemed to have budged Steve Smith after getting the batsman out in the first innings. He is now suspended with a two match ban after he was found guilty of a level 2 offence. The verdict was announced only after the game.
Australia came into bat after lunch on Day 3, reeling behind 139 runs and having had a miserable first innings. They needed a revival to set up a contest but lost their seasoned opener David Warner early as he was clean bowled by a swinging delivery from 22-year-old Rabada. Rabada showcased his emotions while celebrating the wicket and looked to have shouted on the face of the outgoing batsman. This incident has also come under the scanner and the verdict is yet to be announced.
Rabada was well supported by Lungi Ngidi, the 21-year-old paceman and Keshav Maharaj, the left-arm spinner who chipped in with a wicket each to have Australia 77/3. Usman Khwaja was the lone warrior in the Australian fightback as he compiled 75 runs to take Australia ahead in the game. He was well supported in a 87 runs with Mitchell Marsh. Khwaja was out just before the end of play om Day 3.
Day 4 started with Mitchell Marsh being sent back to the pavilion in the first over from Rabada. Rabada picked up six wickets in the second innings to have an impressive 11-fer in the match. Australia was bundled out with a lead of just 100 runs and South Africa needing just 101 runs to win it.
Chasing a modest target, South Africa lost openers Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar early in the innings before AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla took them out of trouble with a contribution of 28 and 27 runs respectively. Both the batsman were out with the team needing 20 runs to win. South Africa was home with a six wicket victory. This has set up the series well with two games to go at Cape Town and Johannesburg.
The most difficult job was for the man who judged the man of the match award and finally it was decided to be given to Rabada for his 11-fer and some valuable runs in the first innings. AB de Villiers was the other contender.
Many positives came out of the game for South Africa, from AB’s form to Rabada’s talent. South Africa has found it’s tune back. Lungi Ngidi is a good future prospect. Australia needs to regroup and try to improve their performances if they want a share of the spoils in the series. The only positive for them would be Rabada’s suspension which makes it unlikely for him to feature in the next two matches.
This was one of the gripping test matches to watch. Enjoyable if you are a Proteas fan and forgettable if you are an Aussie fan.