Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Smith strikes as Australia close on victory

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 day of the third and final Test against South Africa on Wednesday.

South Africa were 201 for seven at tea at Newlands, with Australia needing three more wickets in the remaining 33 overs to seal the first series win against the world's number one team since 2008/09.

It was a day of stubborn resistance by South Africa - who started on 71 for four - having abandoned any idea of chasing a target of 511.

AB 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 for 116 minutes and faced 89 balls in scoring seven runs, did not play a shot to a ball from James Pattinson which cut back and clipped the top of his off stump.

The home side's 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 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 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 towards 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. (AFP)

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