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Duminy powers South Africa to position of strength in 2nd Test

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JP Duminy has had some hugely career defining moments in the nine Test matches he has played against Australia. His cut-drive for three that signed off the 414 runs chase at Perth will live forever in the annals of South African cricket history as will his career-best 166 that set up the series win at Melbourne.

The second day of the second Sunfoil Test match at Axxess St. George’s on Friday provided yet another defining moment. The day’s play started on a knife edge with a fresh Australian attack taking the second new ball with the prospect of bowling South Africa out for under 250. The other side of the coin would see the Proteas continue their fightback and post a total in the region of 350 or 400.

The first ball of Mitchell Johnson’s second over of the morning was a full half-volley which Duminy clipped to the square leg fence. The second delivery was again down the wrong line and Duminy’s leg-glance helped it on its way to the fine leg boundary this time.

But the moment of the day was the fifth delivery that Johnson dug in short and Duminy flat-batted it to deep midwicket for four. If ever there was a statement of intent, this was it. The demon of SuperSport Park was exorcised and the scene set for the subsequent ground record sixth wicket partnership of 149 that saw both Duminy (his third) and AB de Villiers (his 19th) go on to their richly merited centuries.

The prance of the Proteas was back and they backed up their first innings total of 423 with a fast bowling display that had all the intensity and aggression that had been lacking at SuperSport Park to have Australia struggling at 112/4 at the close – an overall deficit of 311 – David Warner’s counter-attacking half-century notwithstanding.

It was heading to be the perfect day for the Proteas until the closing half-hour when De Villiers dropped Warner behind the stumps off the luckless Morne Morkel, they then failed to use the DRS when night watchman Nathan Lyon was caught down the leg side off Dale Steyn and given not out and then Duminy dropped Lyon in the gully off Wayne Parnell.

Nevertheless the Proteas will take the advantage they have. They won’t be the only ones sleeping more easily tonight. The selectors normally catch the flak when things go wrong and don’t get the credit when they go right. Two of the three changes they have made for this match – Dean Elgar and Parnell – have already reaped a rich dividend. It was Elgar who halted Australia in their tracks when they had the Proteas 11/2 on the first morning and then Parnell started his series account with a double wicket maiden, striking with his first and third deliveries, to remove Alex Doolan and Shaun Marsh.

But none of the fast bowling assault in the final couple of hours would have been possible without De Villiers and Duminy who both have career averages bordering on 50 against Australia and there are not many South Africans who can claim that in the history of time.

It was Duminy’s first century on home soil and should have put to rest the criticism that has fairly unjustly been heaped on him in recent times. The second half of his Test career only started when Mark Boucher retired from Test cricket which created an extra batting position. In that comeback series against England – he had also scored a century just before that in New Zealand when Jacques Kallis was injured - he averaged more than 60 and played a key innings at Lord’s.

He then suffered that crippling injury in Australia and it was always going to take him a while to find his feet again quite literally. It has taken him six Tests and the selectors’ perseverance will now be well rewarded.

As for De Villiers what more needs to be said about him. He is positioning himself to overtake both Graeme Pollock and Kallis with the highest batting rating any South African has ever enjoyed and a place in the top 10 in the history of the game. TV commentator Mark Nicholas summed it up pretty well: “Jacques Kallis may have gone but AB has got plenty of years left.”