South Africa strike back in Port Elizabeth

South Africa, comprehensively defeated a week ago in Durban, driven by a withering performance from Kagiso Rabada turned the tables on Australia in Port Elizabeth to record a six-wicket victory and level the four-match series at 1-1. The Australians, so dominant a week earlier, had no answer to the fiery quick or the class of AB de Villiers who posted his 22nd Test Century, to help claim the momentum as the series turns to Cape Town next week.

After captain Steve Smith elected to bat after winning the toss, Australia’s openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft looked to have built a solid platform with the score at 1/98 at lunch on the first day. It would be the last time they would hold a dominant position though, with Rabada tearing the heart out of the innings in the second session. It would ultimately prove a costly spell for the 22-year-old however, with his fiery reaction upon taking the wicket of Smith incurring the wrath of the Match Referee and a two-match suspension. He would incur a second charge in the second innings after claiming the key scalp of David Warner consigning him to the role of spectator for the balance of the series and robbing the next two contests of one of its headline acts.

Like it had in Durban, the Aussie tail wagged once more with the last three wickets adding 70 runs to help the total along to 243. While the total was more than it might have been it was 100 shy of a competitive mark which South Africa went about proving when it came to their turn to occupy the crease.

After Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla showed extraordinary grit to blunt the Aussie attack and post half-centuries off 190 and 140 balls respectively, de Villiers came to the middle and wowed all those watching with an imperious century. The elegant right-hander appeared to be batting on a completely different pitch to the other players in the match as he ruthlessly toyed with the Aussie bowlers. He would ultimately run out of partners but not before smoking 20 fours and one six in gloriously made 126 not out in the South African total of 382.

If the visitors were hoping to quickly eradicate the first innings deficit in the hope of setting a difficult last innings chase, they were sadly disappointed. With key men Smith and Warner once again falling cheaply, Australia was once again dismantled by the South African pace battery losing four wickets before eclipsing the first innings shortfall. The underpressure Usman Khawaja with 75, and Mitch Marsh with 45, were the only bats to fire as Australia managed to set South Africa a measly 102 runs for victory.

While totals around the 100 run mark can be tricky, as those old enough to remember the classic Test between the two nations at the SCG in 1994 can attest, and despite losing Elgar and Markram early the Proteas were never in any real danger of falling short. De Villiers and Amla also fell in the chase but it was not enough for  the Australians to grab a famous victory.

2nd Test, Australia tour of South Africa at Port Elizabeth, Mar 9-12 2018            South Africa 382 (De Villiers 126*, Elgar 57, Amla 56, Cummins 3-79) and 102 for 4 defeated Australia 243 (Warner 63, Rabada 5-96, Ngidi 3-51) and 239 (Khawaja 75, Rabada 6-54) by 6 wickets

 

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