Australia lose openers in mammoth chase of 539

Tea Australia 244 and 2 for 84 (Khawaja 16*, Smith 11*) need another 455 runs to beat South Africa 242 and 8 for 540 dec (Duminy 141, Elgar 127, Philander 73, de Kock 64)
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David Warner made a quick 35 © Getty Images

South Africa went to tea on the fourth day at the WACA needing eight wickets from the remaining four sessions after removing both of Australia’s openers in the 13th over of a mammoth chase. Faf du Plessis had delayed South Africa’s declaration until after lunch and set Australia 539 for victory, which if they were to achieved it would smash the previous highest winning score in the fourth innings of a Test, the 418 West Indies scored back in 2003.

But if Australia held any glimmer of hope from the fact that South Africa’s best bowler, Dale Steyn, would be unavailable due to a shoulder injury, that hope was snuffed out by a brilliant piece of fielding from Temba Bavuma. David Warner had moved along to 35 at better than a run a ball when he nudged Kagiso Rabada to cover and took off for a single.

Bavuma was just as quick off the mark, making up ground from cover-point, picking up, diving and throwing in one movement. His throw was perfect: hugging the ground to allow minimum air-time, it hit the stumps with Warner reaching for his ground. Warner appeared not to have stretched to his full capacity, perhaps not expecting to be in danger, but the replay showed him short of his ground.

Given Warner’s ability to score quickly and his love of the WACA, he was arguably the one batsman who could have given Australia the remotest chance if he stayed at the crease for a lengthy time. Adding to Australia’s woes, four balls later Warner’s opening partner Shaun Marsh edged Rabada to second slip and was caught for 15.

A collapse seemed on the cards in the next over when Usman Khawaja played back to the first ball he faced and tried to cut JP Duminy. Khawaja was given out caught behind but asked for a review, and replays confirmed the ball had brushed the flap of his pad on the way through to Quinton de Kock rather than the edge of the bat. Still, Australia were 2 for 52 and in a massive hole.

By lunch there had been no further wickets, and they had moved to 2 for 84, with Khawaja on 16 and Steven Smith on 11. They needed another 455 for victory, but it might as well have been 1000. South Africa were firmly in control, as had been the case for most of the past couple of days.

South Africa had delayed their declaration until after lunch on the fourth day, with de Kock and Vernon Philander both scoring half-centuries as du Plessis kept Australia in the field in the Perth heat. South Africa had been 7 for 508 at lunch and added another 32 after the break before the declaration came on 8 for 540, at the fall of the wicket of Philander.

On 73, Philander took a lusty swing at the legspin of Smith, who did not bowl until the 159th over of the innings, and was bowled. Keshav Maharaj remained unbeaten on 41 from 34 deliveries, having struck three sixes off Nathan Lyon. The declaration left Australia needing to rewrite Test history.

Only once in Test history has any team scored more than 500 in the fourth innings, and even that did not result in a win, for England’s 654 for 5 in the infamous timeless Test of 1939 came in pursuit of 696. The highest successful chase in Test history was the 418 scored by West Indies against Australia in Antigua in 2003, and Austraia’s highest was 404 back in 1948.

The only wicket to fall during the opening session was that of de Kock, who for the fourth consecutive innings in Test cricket passed fifty. He was eventually out for 64 off 100 balls when he drove a catch to short cover off Mitchell Marsh, ending a 116-run partnership with Philander for the seventh wicket.

It had been a frustrating session for the Australians, who twice had de Kock given out only to have those decisions rightly overturned on review, while Philander was put down on 29. Philander top-edged a hook off Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, running around at fine leg, seemed uncertain of where the boundary rope was, and this distraction left him in an awkward position to take a catch that should have been more comfortable. The ball parried over the boundary for six.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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