Tim Paine says hard work is key to rebuilding the Australian team.
Tim Paine says hard work is key to rebuilding the Australian team.

Aussies with sniff of salvation as Proteas dally

CRICKET'S bore war has at least given Australia something to play for on day five of the final Test in South Africa.

With the Proteas' three-pronged pace attack beset by injury, they left absolutely nothing to chance needing only a draw to secure a first home series win against arch-enemy Australia in almost 50 years.

South Africa finally declared at tea on day four (6-344), setting the visitors an unreachable target of 612. In the process they gave Australia some hope of forcing a draw.

It still looms as an herculean task for Australia but one, if they can somehow pull it off, which would signify the start of the rebuild.


Australia was somewhat precariously placed at stumps on day four (3-88) when umpires halted play with Joe Burns' late wicket (42 off 80 balls) leaving the Proteas favoured to snatch a 3-1 series win.

But with Peter Handscomb (23 off 30 balls) and Shaun Marsh (7) left at the crease there was sign of life, although epic knocks are needed from the pair on the final day with Tim Paine's role with the bat set to be decisive.

Pat Cummins again led the way for the Aussies.
Pat Cummins again led the way for the Aussies.

The captain is set to rally his team for one brave, last stand ahead of day five at The Wanderers, against a wounded but plucky Proteas bowling attack. There remains an outside chance of showers.

South Africa appeared to contemptuously take Australia out of the contest, although the emergence of their injury woes illustrated why they batted on in an old-fashioned Test innings.

It was doubtful whether a heavily-strapped Morne Morkel (left side strain) would bowl in the second innings, yet he claimed two crucial wickets in the final session of his last Test match.

Matt Renshaw (5) and Usman Khawaja (7) were both caught leg before by Morkel and Keshav Maharaj respectively, before Burns offered stiff resistance before he was also trapped.

It will take a huge physical effort from the Australians, with No. 6 Mitch Marsh clearly feeling the effects of almost two days in the field and a long series, as he limped through his limited overs.

Morne Morkel was the star with the ball despite injury.
Morne Morkel was the star with the ball despite injury.

The Australian batters who, Khawaja aside, failed in the first innings were keen to atone, with some are playing for their careers as Darren Lehmann's coaching replacement candidates were no doubt glued to the TV screens from all around the world, taking mental notes.

Proteas quicks Vernon Philander (groin) and Kagiso Rabada (stiff lower back) also being nursed, leaving a heavy reliance on spinner Maharaj.

While the drained Australians would've struggled to bat almost two days had the Proteas declared at or around lunch on day four, when they led by 469, now they have some hope.

Opener Dean Elgar (81 off 250) underlined South Africa's stubbornness, making Australia work for his wicket, with Marsh taking a great running catch off Nathan Lyon.

Joe Burns defied the Proteas attack for most of the last session.
Joe Burns defied the Proteas attack for most of the last session.

Two incidents occurred in the first session that not so long ago may have ignited tension.

Faf du Plessis, who like Paine has history of finger issues, copped a zinger on the right hand from a Pat Cummins delivery that rose sharply.

He bravely fought on to score 120, determined to make a statement after a wretched series with a top score of 20, in addition to his knowledge of the bowlers' plight.

Moments later a firmly struck du Plessis shot caught a ducking Peter Handscomb square in the back.

Faf du Plessis found some form after a wretched series.
Faf du Plessis found some form after a wretched series.

In a gesture that symbolised the renewed camaraderie between the teams, du Plessis and Handscomb then shared a warm embrace.

Cummins and Josh Hazelwood didn't target du Plessis' finger as one may have expected only recently.

The final session ended with the floodlights on with umpires calling stumps, after play was delayed at the start of the day due to bad light.

Earlier, new Test captain Tim Paine hailed his team's renewed spirit, declaring hard work was the only tonic now with gun duo Steve Smith and David Warner out of the side.

A Paine pep talk after a disappointing second day of the final Test inspired a strong response, when it appeared that the Proteas were going to steamroll the fragile Australians in three days.

While Paine and Pat Cummins led the charge, there was a strong collective effort underlined by an energetic fielding display.

Paine, who has vowed to fight on amid concerns over his latest finger injury, has provided a compelling case to carry on as skipper, epitomising the team's grit at The Wanderers.

Matt Renshaw couldn’t follow up his great Shield form.
Matt Renshaw couldn’t follow up his great Shield form.

But the brave Tasmanian praised his teammates' reaction after the most chaotic preparation for a Test in recent history.

"You dust ourselves off, come back and try to do your best, keep on improving. That's sort of where we're at the moment when you've got some of your best players not in the side," Paine said.

"It's just about people picking up the slack and trying to get better every day.

"We were very disappointed with (day two), we spoke about that. Just purely on effort and our mode of dismissals we thought was pretty poor.

"I thought the spirit and the fight with the bat and then to come out, I thought the discipline our bowlers showed, we didn't get the wickets that we perhaps deserved.

"But I was really proud at the way they stuck at it and the same with our fielding group. I thought our fielding energy right through the innings was excellent. That's what we're about."

Paine, who's had seven operations and three bone grafts, said he would be assessed once they return to Australia, after playing on despite a hairline fracture in his right thumb.

He dispelled any suggestions of moving up the order after his defiant 62 first innings knock, declaring that he will stay on at No.7.

"No, I don't think so. I'll bat at seven where the wicketkeeper bats. Sometimes it happens with tails. Sometimes we get knocked over quite quickly and other times we can dig in and score a few runs,'' he said.

"In this team that's my role, to try and eek out as many runs as I can with the tail.

"It (the thumb) has got a little crack in it. I've played through worse. I haven't spoken about it (if he'll miss any cricket), all we know at the moment is some sort of break in it. It's all in place which is good."


Australia were 3-88 at stumps on the fourth day of the fourth Test against South Africa at The Wanderers Stadium today. Scores: South Africa 488 (A Markram 152, T Bavuma 95no; P Cummins 5-83, N Lyon 3-182) and 6 (dec)-344 (F du Plessis 120, D Elgar 81; P Cummins 4-58); Australia 221 (T Paine 62, U Khawaja 53; V Philander 3-30, K Rabada 3-53, K Maharaj 3-92) and 3-88 (J Burns 42, P Handscomb 23no). - AAP