15/04/2024

Pat Cummins and Dean Elgar shake hands as the Third Test was drawn at the SCG. Image: cricket.com.au

South Africa showed their mettle on the final day of the series against Australia, consigning the SCG Test to a draw for a third consecutive year.

Australia entered the day needing to take 14 South African wickets to force a result, in another rain and weather-affected match in Sydney.

Having lost only one wicket before the lunch break, the Protea hopes grew of salvaging a result. Australia took the final three first innings wickets and enforced the follow-on before the teams ultimately shook hands five overs before the close of play with South Africa only two wickets down.

Here are the moments that mattered on Day Five at the SCG.

Jansen falls after a watchful and patient first hour

It was a watchful and careful start for the tourists. The knowledge that the longer they survived and prolonged the procession of wickets in the morning, meant that the likelihood of Australia forcing a result and taking 14 wickets for the day grew less likely.

The first three overs of the day, from Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins, were all maidens, as Australia looked to put the pressure on Marco Jansen and Simon Harmer.

Pat Cummins, whose hostile spell yesterday from the Paddington end swung the door wide open for the hosts with some excellent short bowling, started to go searching for some reverse swing and some sideways movement. At first attempt, he was hooked to the boundary for four by Simon Harmer.

At the Randwick end, Nathan Lyon was creating chances on a pitch that was still yet to break up. The champion off-spinner challenged both edges of the South African batters, with chances spurting up to Marnus Labuschagne at short leg that were not claimed or landed to the side of him.

Travis Head replaced Lyon from the Randwick end as the new ball neared, and it proved fruitful, with the South Australian finding Jansen’s outside edge, which was caught by Carey behind the stumps.

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Head looked increasingly threatening in his short spell, creating more chances for Labuschagne at short leg.

Harmer standing tall as follow on target creeps closer

Australia took the new ball straight after drinks when it became available but it was met, for the first time in this series, by a stiff challenge.

Both Harmer and Keshav Maharaj began taking on the Australian bowling, bringing up the 200, which was a significant marker for the Proteas considering the lack of times they have reached the marker in the past 10 Test matches.

The 50 partnership came up off 107 balls as South Africa continued to creep towards the follow-on target, pushing the likelihood of a favourable result for Australia further and further away.

Both quick bowlers Cummins and Hazlewood rotating spells from the Paddington end as they searched for the uneven bounce.

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Lyon lurking as Hazlewood breaks resistance

South Africa went to lunch at 7/244 with hope.

Keshav Maharaj brought up a half-century in the first over after lunch with an edge through the gully and the slips. His resistance and attack on the Australian bowlers, along with Harmer’s stoic defence increased South Africa’s hopes of escaping with a draw. They took another hit when Josh Hazlewood trapped Maharaj LBW for 53.

The South Africans still needed 24 runs to avoid the follow-on at this point, with Cummins and Hazlewood pressing and Nathan Lyon finding plenty of turn from the other end creating plenty of chances as he had done all day.

Lyon came on again from the Randwick end and very nearly made the breakthrough once more. He, Cummins, and Carey sent an LBW shout against Harmer upstairs which was pitching in line but was an ‘umpires call’, hitting the stumps as it spun away past the leg stump.

Lyon got another one to rag and turn and sent another decision upstairs for review, which was ruled ‘umpires call’ on both impact and wickets, which meant that the review was retained.

Hazlewood broke through the defences of Simon Harmer for 47, the spinner chopping onto his stumps, with South Africa still 21 runs short of the follow-on target.

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Lyon took the final wicket and Australia enforced the follow-on, leaving 47 overs to take 10 wickets.

Elgar’s sorry tour ends in scarcely similar fashion

Australia will always be a significant place in Dean Elgar’s test career. It’s the place he started his career with a pair at the WACA and a place where he has been involved in two historic away series wins against Australia. A feat rarely achieved by touring teams on these shores.

He began the series gloving a ball down the leg side through to Alex Carey and it became a recurrence for the South African captain, being dismissed in the same manner multiple times.

After Pat Cummins threw the new ball to Ashton Agar to bowl in tandem with Josh Hazlewood, Agar became the first Australian spinner to open the bowling at a home test match since Shane Warne in 2002 and just the second spinner to do so since 1980. Cummins brought himself on soon after to start the inroads into the South African order again.

As he had done many times before on this visit, Elgar went to fend at a ball that was moving down the leg side which was subsequently caught by Alex Carey behind the stumps. It brought to an end a horror tour out in the middle for the South African captain. Arriving as their most decorated and best batter, Elgar leaves with his lowest batting average for a series where he has featured more than once and the fifth-worst average for an opening batter on Australian soil in a Test series.

The tourists reached the tea break on the final day 1/46.

Soft signal in the action again as Smith’s slips catch ruled out again

For the third time this match, Richard Kettleborough was asked to deploy the technology to help break the impasse.

Nathan Lyon, as he had all day, was operating from the Randwick end, creating chances and looking dangerous. He sent a decision that was struck down by umpire Chris Gaffaney for LBW, upstairs for a DRS challenge, which was ruled to be pitching in line and hitting the stumps, but the impact just outside the line showed ‘umpires call’. Two balls later, Lyon found the outside edge of Heinrich Klaasen which went to Steve Smith at first slip.

The standing umpires came together in the middle before once again, referring the decision upstairs to Third Umpire Kettleborough with the soft signal being ‘out’.

Smith appeared to have gotten his fingers under the ball in time and scooped it up and controlled it before it touched the grass. However, not for the first time this game, Kettleborough found he had enough evidence to overturn the soft signal on field, giving Klaasen a reprieve.

Hazlewood got him soon after though, getting one to move back in through the game, removing Klaasen for 35.

The players shook hands with five overs remaining in the day with South Africa surviving, reaching stumps 2/105 on the final day.

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