The third day at Sydney ended virtually the way most third days did, with Australia losing grip on their hold on the match and subsequently, the series. But this time the anguish as Mark Boucher yelled on losing his wicket said it all. South Africa are in need of a miracle because they must once again fight from the brink to create more history.
South Africa began well last evening despite the fact that they suffered a major set back with their in form skipper suffering broken bones on his bottom hand, more precisely, the left to add to his right elbow twitches. But there still needed to be plenty done for South Africa to once again put it past Australia.
Hashim Amla resounded back with a half century and Jacques Kallis looked good overnight. But Kallis’ dismissal, caught tamely in the slips, opened the door of vulnerability where every start of a partnership was doused an assertive move to thwart any advantage conceded by Smith’s injury.
Matters were made worse when the door was widened when AB de Villiers was confident he had survived a run out only to realize a momentary instance was going to cost South Africa dearly with an unnecessary waste of a wicket. Amla followed his half century with his own dismissal to debutant all rounder Andrew MacDonald and South Africa were looking fragile at four down for 166, but effectively five down without Smith.
But in came Mark Boucher and he kept fighting off Australia from making inroads. To keep him company was another enterprising tail ender, Morne Morkel. The duo went from consolidating South Africa’s position to become more on the offensive to ensure South Africa came closer to reducing the deficit significantly. Their 118 run stand, especially post lunch, was reminiscent of JP Duminy and Dale Steyn’s resistance in the second Test at the MCG to leave Australia feeling weak in the knees.
Australia may have had their déjà vu moments. But it was Peter Siddle who ensured they would not leave lasting scars. Siddle went about cleaning up the tail after Morkel’s best Test knock of forty and Boucher was forced to switch gears to a more aggressive knock in order to chip away at the deficit before South Africa fell.
When Boucher himself was bowled for eighty-nine, his scream of anguish was not because he missed out on what would have been a well deserved century but rather because it meant that the last standing batsman had fallen, leaving South Africa with still much to do before this Test ended in their favour. Smith was not going to come out to bat, rather he could not though he would have wanted to.
In the few minutes before close of play, Matthew Hayden sparked off renewed hope that he would indeed last till the end of the Ashes as he had hoped. While Neil McKenzie held onto the captain’s hat, there was little thinking as the South African bowlers were sent thrashing. They will need more inspiration to turn the match on its head tomorrow and prevent a debacle, unforeseeable two days ago.