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South Africa take complete control of Perth Test, stretch lead to 292

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hashim_amlaThe last time South Africa had won a day in this test series, was on the opening day of the first test in Brisbane almost a month ago. Since that day, the Proteas had been battered and bruised by their inhospitable Australian hosts, but had managed to survive to enter the final test in Perth still on level pegging. However, the Proteas seamers rebounded brilliantly in the first hour of play this morning to rattle out the Aussies for just 163 in their first innings, before their batsmen seized the initiative late in the day to extend their lead to 292 to take total command of the final test. Hashim Amla with a brilliant unbeaten 99 from 84 balls lead the way for the South Africans on a tricky track, and he shared in a crucial partnership for the second wicket with skipper Graeme Smith who made a more than useful 84. The Proteas will look to bat for as long as they can in their second innings, with tomorrow being just day 3 of a test match that has just flown by.

Australia, having bowled out the South Africans for 225 in the 1st innings on day 1 of the Perth test, lost the initiative as their top order collapsed early on day 2.  A combination of some fast and accurate bowling coupled with some tentative Australian batting saw the hosts slump from their overnight score of 33-2 to 45-6 within the first hour on day 2. The leader of the South African attack, Dale Steyn started the wreckage as he picked up both overnight batsmen in his first over, the second of the day.

After having batted through an awkward little period before stumps on day 1, opener David Warner threw his wicket away in the second over of the morning when he went for a needless waft at a wide delivery from Steyn and was caught behind for 13. A couple of balls latter it was double-trouble for the Aussies as the night watchman Nathan Lyon(7) was squared up by late out-swinger from Steyn, only managing to spoon a catch to gully. Ricky Ponting, who walked out at 5, playing his last test match, enthralled the spectators with a trademark pull shot for 3 runs before he too fell lbw for 4 a couple of overs later, trapped by an incoming ball from Vernon Philander, leaving Australia 5 down.

That wasn’t it as no.6 went down soon after as in-form Aussie skipper Michael Clarke (5) got a peach from Steyn that squared him up and took his outside edge through to the keeper. South Africa were on fire, reducing the Aussies to 45-6 in the first 40 minutes to get well ahead in the game. The Aussies weren’t ready to go down without a fight though as the last recognized pair at the wicket, Mike Hussey and Matthew Wade put up some rearguard action towards the end of the first session.

Hussey was intent on singles while his partner Wade went on the offensive with pulls and flicks on the leg side to get their team total close to a hundred. Wade was superb in his attacking display, reminiscent of his test Hundred in the Caribbean earlier this year. He moved quickly past the thirty run mark while his partner had to grind against a fiery spell from Morne Morkel. The lanky fast bowler troubled Hussey with in an in-between length that kept him guessing for 15 minutes before eventually getting his man caught in the slips inducing a tentative half drive. Hussey departed for 12 with score on 100/7. Wade wasn’t changing his approach though as he belted the left arm spinner Robin Peterson for 2 huge sixes to get to a run-a-ball 50 before lunch. It was still South Africa firmly in the ascendancy at lunch on day 2 though with hosts struggling on 118/7 still 107 behind the Proteas.

With the ball softening gradually and the pitch seeming to ease up after lunch, the Aussies set out to battle back through their lower order and looked to get as close to the Proteas’ first innings score as possible. Wicketkeeper Matthew Wade and lower order bat John Hastings looked well on track to doing that after the break, putting on a further 22 runs without many alarms. A moment of madness from Wade though set Australia back, against the run of play. The left hander, whose shot selection was flawless before lunch, went for a wild slog sweep to a fullish delivery from Robin Peterson only to see his stumps shattered after making an excellent 68.

The Peterson experiement on a wicket that wasn’t taking much turn paid further dividends when no.10 Mitchell Johnson (7) too looked for a wild slog and lost his middle stump in the process. Left with the last man, debutant John Hastings, who had made a sizeable contribution of 32, looked to chance his arm against the left arm spin of Peterson and holed out to a smart catch from Alviro Petersen on the long off boundary. Consequently, Australia were bowled out for 163 in their first innings, conceding a crucial lead of 62 runs to the Proteas before tea.

The South African openers Alviro Petersen and Graeme Smith then walked out to bat with the sun beating down at the WACA, 20 minutes before tea. The established pair saw through the phase without any loss of wickets by capitalizing on a couple streaky moments in their favour against the new ball. Peterson went on the offensive and struck four boundaries before tea to take South Africa to 24/0 at the end of the session, extending their lead to 86, already into the 3rd innings of the match.

South Africa suffered an early setback, losing Petersen in the first over after tea, with Mitchell Johnson taking an exceptional diving catch off his own bowling, having induced a leading edge.

Despite the blow, South Africa continued to play positive cricket with Hastings being smashed out of the attack having conceded 26 runs from his first 3 overs. The Proteas were scoring comfortably at over 6 an over and Graeme Smith brought up his half-century in style, smashing Mitchell Starc for three consecutive boundaries to leave the youngster's figures reading 6-0-50-0. Interestingly, Smith was given out leg before on the penultimate ball of that over, but Umpire Asad Rauf had predictably not kept the bounce of the WACA in mind, and the decision was quickly reversed.

In the very next over, Amla brought up his half-century from just 37 balls, basically coming up with a shot a ball.

The runs continued to flow freely for the South Africans, with Australia unable to contain the veteran duo. The Smith - Amla partnership was threatening to take the game away from the hosts when Nathan Lyon took a terrific catch in the deep to finally bring an end to Smith's battling effort. The Proteas skipper fell hooking Mitchell Starc for 84 off just 100 balls, having struck 13 boundaries.

Starc should have got another shortly after, but Lyon after having taken a real beaut, dropped a regulation chance to give Jacques Kallis a second life. The veteran allrounder responded by smacking Starc for three boundaries in the penultimate over of the day.

The wicket of Smith affected Amla's play, and he opted to apply the more cautious approach towards getting to a hundred. He was to be denied a rare century in just a session though as he ran out of overs, ending the day unbeaten on 99.

The Proteas are firmly in the driver's seat at Perth, and only a miracle would deny them a win with so much time left in the test match. However, they will be vary of history repeating itself here, where they themselves chased down a record fourth innings target of 414 to win an epic test match 4 years ago as the wicket got a lot better for batting as the match progressed.

Mini Scorecard

South Africa 1st innings 225 all out (74 overs, 3.1 rpo)
F Du Plessis 78*(142) M Johnson 2/54
R Peterson 31(45) N Lyon 3/41

Australia 1st innings 163 all out (53.1 overs, 3.06 rpo)
M Wade 68*(102) D Steyn 4/40
J Hastings 32(58) R Peterson 3/44

South Africa 2nd innings 230/2 (38 overs, 6.05 rpo)
H Amla 99*(84) M Johnson 1-35
G Smith 84 (100) M Starc 1-76

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