THE Proteas ended their ill-starred tour Down Under with a faint smile when they forced a draw in the rain-affected third test against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday. The home team therefore claimed the series 2-0.
Jan. 9, 2023
4 min read
Fighting Proteas force draw in final test
Proteas Captain, Dean Elgar
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Despite being unable to avert the follow-on on the fifth and final day, South Africa did well to reach 106 for two in 41.4 overs in their second innings when the captains agreed to settle for a draw in the final hour. It was always going to be a tough ask for Australia to claim 14 wickets on the final day, even on a day when the sun shone constantly, and the slow pitch also didn’t help them.
But South Africa also deserved plaudits. Sunday was probably the most encouraging day of the tour for the tourists after they started the day in the perilous position of 149 for six, needing 275 to avoid the follow-on.
But it was Simon Harmer, first in partnership with Marco Jansen (11 in 78 balls), and then in the company of Keshav Maharaj, who denied the Australians another wicket in the session. Jansen fell to part-time offspinner Travis Head, caught behind by Alex Carey, but Harmer and Maharaj combined to add 80 in 161 balls that helped South Africa to ward off the Aussie threat.
The pitch, baking under the sun which made a rare appearance, looked flat in the morning and the two South African batsmen were almost comfortable. Maharaj, (53 in 81 balls) was the more aggressive of the two batsmen, striking six fours and a six in his innings, while Harmer played the anchor role. Maharaj eventually departed after lunch, trapped leg before by one of Josh Hazlewood’s reverse-swinging specials. It was his fifth test half-century.
Harmer was also undone by Hazlewood, playing on off an inside edge. His gutsy knock of 47 off 165 balls was his highest test score, and it showed all the fighting qualities that the South African batsmen have largely lacked on this tour.
Hazlewood was Australia’s outstanding bowler with 4/48 – a successful return for the pace bowler who missed the first two tests through injury. Cummins wasn’t far behind with 3/60 while Lyon and Travis Head shared the other three.
Eventually, South Africa were dismissed for 255 – their highest total of the series – 20 short of the follow-on target, and the tourists returned to the crease with a total of 49 overs to survive.
The Proteas’ management will be concerned that skipper Dean Elgar was unable to use the occasion to get into some kind of nick. Once again he looked awkward at the crease with little or no footwork, and once again he was undone early in his innings, gloving a catch down the leg side to the wicketkeeper. This was the fourth time he has fallen in this manner in the series and he has a technical problem that he will need to address.
Sarel Erwee and Heinrich Klaasen batted well to add 48 for the second wicket although Klaasen will consider himself fortunate to have survived an over from Lyon in which he somehow survived a leg-before appeal that looked plumb and then a catch by Steve Smith at slip which the former Aussie captain was convinced he had taken.
Klaasen didn’t survive much longer, however, succumbing to a superb off-cutter from Hazlewood, and it was left to Erwee (42 in 125 balls) and Temba Bavuma (17 in 42 balls) to see out the match.
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Usman Khawaja, with an unbeaten 195, was adjudged the player of the match while David Warner, with a double-hundred in his 100th test match in Melbourne, was named player of the series.
Speaking afterward, Elgar said: “Touring Australia is never easy and I spoke to the team last night and told them to fight. I think the kind of attitude we showed and our performance today will lead us down the right road in the future.”
He added: “There are only two or three guys who have toured here in the past, for the rest it was all brand new experiences. I think we can take a lot of learnings out of the tour. Massive credit to Pat (Cummins) and his squad for putting up a massive spectacle throughout the whole series. There are a few negatives for us but also a lot of positives, especially after today. It’s been a real roller-coaster tour for us, but one thing that test cricket teaches you is to be resilient.”
Speaking about his disappointing tour at the top of the order, Elgar said that being one of the leading run-getters in the team was something he had always prided himself on. “I am the captain but I’m also the run-scorer which hasn’t worked out of late, but I know I’ll be back. I don’t go lying down. I know my character and I know I’ll come back stronger.” - SuperSport