Rain brought a premature end to the second day of the third Test between South Africa and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday, which one supposes the Proteas won’t be too unhappy about because the home side had piled up a massive 475/4 in their first innings.
There can surely only be one winner of the match now, following Usman Khawaja’s epic 195 not out and Steven Smith’s impressive 104, and so losing 49 overs across the first two days takes time out of the game and plays into the Proteas’ hands.
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Khawaja and Smith feasted on the South African bowling as they added 209 for the third wicket, continuing their phenomenal record of major partnerships. That laid the table, with Australia on 356/3, for Travis Head who came to the crease and added the spices with a punishing 70 off just 59 balls, ensuring a tired bowling attack had no respite.
Asking for more
Khawaja will no doubt be asking for just a few more overs in which to post his maiden Test double-century before Australia declare, and then another wretched battle for survival will begin for the Proteas batsmen.
Their bowling has been put to the sword on the first two days, albeit on a tough pitch for bowling: there is little pace, no sideways movement to speak of and the turn is slow, allowing the batsmen, especially Khawaja, the time to play off the back foot to great effect.
Smith did eventually fall after collecting 11 fours and two sixes in 192 balls, giving Keshav Maharaj a return catch when the left-arm spinner produced a bit more flight.
Maharaj has otherwise been poor, conceding 108 runs in 25 overs, while off-spinner Harmer has been putting more revs on the ball and asking more questions, but without reward. He has borne the heaviest burden on a dry pitch, bowling 31 overs and conceding 109 runs.
Fast bowler Anrich Nortje did not add to his two wickets on the first day, but he was again South Africa’s most impressive bowler. Unfortunately, his fellow pacemen could not follow his lead. Young left-armer Marco Jansen was not quite at his best, but continues to market himself as one of the brightest talents in international cricket, bowling a fine spell with the second new ball. Kagiso Rabada is out-of-sorts and has conceded 119 runs in his 28 overs. He did get the wicket of Head, albeit with a short ball that required a sharp catch by 12th man Rassie van der Dussen at deep square-leg.
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Khawaja’s 368-ball innings, with 19 fours and a six, has been a super display of the craft of an opening batsman; he has shown great precision in both the selection and execution of his strokes and has put away the loose deliveries in elegant fashion.