South Africa dig deep to deny Australia clean sweep
South Africa dug deep to deny Australia a 3-0 series sweep with a battling draw in the rain-disrupted third and final test at the SCG. The hosts, who declared on 475-4 on Saturday to try and force a result, dismissed South Africa for 255 in their first innings after lunch to enforce the follow on, but came up short in their bid to bowl out the visitors again.
Sarel Erwee and Temba Bavuma guided the Proteas to stumps at 106 for two, enabling the Proteas to take something out of the series after being thoroughly outclassed in the first two Tests in Brisbane and Melbourne.
Earlier, lower-order batters Simon Harmer (47) and Keshav Maharaj (53) also played a big part under sunny skies on Sunday with a partnership of 85 for the eighth wicket that extended South Africa’s first innings well into the afternoon.
Remarkably, it was the first draw in 47 Tests for South Africa going back to a game against New Zealand in Hamilton in March 2017.
Had Australia won this Test, it would have confirmed them a place in the World Test Championship (WTC) final. But the Sydney weather took the best part of two days out of this game.
However, with 75.56 percentage points at present, the only scenario in which Australia will miss out on the WTC final berth is if they lose all their four Tests in India and Sri Lanka win both their matches in New Zealand.
A 4-0 defeat to India will see Australia’s percentage points drop to 59.65 and a series sweep for Sri Lanka will take them up to 61.11. If Sri Lanka win 1-0 in New Zealand, their percentage points will only go up to 55.56, which will be below that of Australia even if they lose 4-0 to India.
Ready for India
Australia captain Pat Cummins wants everything at his “disposal” for the “big” series in India next month and besides frontline spinner Nathan Lyon, he feels Ashton Agar and Travis Head will also be vital to the team’s bowling plans.
The first India-Australia Test begins in Nagpur on February 9.
“I think our squad will have basically all possibilities. It’s a big series, so we want everything at our disposal,” Cummins said.
Agar had been called up for the final Test against South Africa, keeping in mind the Indian tour. However, in the 22 overs he bowled, the 29-year-old gave away 58 runs and remained wicketless in Sydney.
“An Indian pitch sometimes really breaks up even from the middle of the wicket, and a left-arm orthodox (like Agar) becomes a bit more effective against right-handed batters,” Cummins added.
All-rounder Cameron Green, who missed the Sydney Test due to a fractured finger, is expected to recover in time for the India tour. “Cam Green bats at No.6, so you’ve got three quick bowlers which is a bit of luxury as it is,” Cummins said.
“He showed his class (taking five wickets at the MCG). You know what you’re going to get, and it’s quality.”
Written with Reuters inputs