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Philander bowls South Africa to 3-1 series triumph

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Vernon Philander needed just three overs to complete the double of 200 career Test wickets and 50 wickets against Australia before completing a quick-fire demolition with career-best figures of 6/21 on the final morning of the fourth Sunfoil Test match at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on Tuesday.

The day’s play lasted little more than an hour as the Proteas achieved the huge winning margin of 492 runs, the biggest ever in South Africa’s history. It completed a 3-1 series win, giving the Proteas their first home Test series win over Australia.

 

At one stage Philander had a spell of 6/3 before No. 11 batsman Josh Hazlewood struck two boundaries at the death of the innings. Philander finished with career best match figures of 9/51 which included his 13th five-wicket haul of his career. It earned him the Sunfoil Man of the Match award. Philander’s previous best innings return had been the 6/42 he took against India earlier this year.

Philander and Kagiso Rabada, who was named Sunfoil Man of the Series, are now the two leading wicket-takers in Test cricket this year, having taken 31 wickets at 16 and 38 wickets at 19 respectively, and all their Tests have been played against two of the powerhouses of world cricket, India and Australia.

Keshav Maharaj, who was expected to play the main bowling role on the final day, hardly got to bowl at all as Faf du Plessis brought Morne Morkel back into the attack to give him the opportunity to take a final wicket on his final day of Test cricket. Unfortunately, it was not to be as the last Australian wicket fell to a run out.

Australia thus finished the series without either an individual century or a century partnership. The Proteas had three of the four leading runs scorers in the series and three of the four leading wicket takers. The dominance of the South African bowlers was reflected by the fact that Australia only managed to force the Proteas to take the second new ball once in the entire series.

What will be really encouraging for South African cricket was the fact that the two main contenders for the Man of the Series were their two youngest members of the playing XI, Rabada and Aiden Markram. And also the tenacity the squad showed in winning three in a row after being well beaten in the first match of the series.

Yesterday, Du Plessis and Morkel produced inspirational performances as they played through the pain barrier to help the Proteas close in on victory. The Proteas came into the final day needing 7 wickets for victory while Australia needed an implausible 524 runs for victory in the remaining 90 overs after being set a monster target of 612 runs.

Du Plessis took several blows to the fingers of his right hand, one of which caused him a great deal of pain but he put it behind him to score his 8th Test match century and his third against Australia. In all he made 120 runs (178 balls, 18 fours and 2 sixes) and shared the biggest partnership of the series to date of 170 with Dean Elgar (81 off 250 balls, 10 fours and a six). In the process Elgar completed his 300 runs for the series.

Du Plessis’ century was a typical power-driven knock, studded with commanding drives and vigorous pulls, plus the odd moment of unorthodoxy such as the six he hit over backward point off the front foot.

His partnership with Elgar took the game well out of Australia’s reach and it was then cemented further by Temba Bavuma and Vernon Philander who hit an unbroken 71 for the seventh wicket. Bavuma completed statistically his best Test match by scoring 130 runs over the two innings without being dismissed.

Pat Cummins rounded off an outstanding series by taking 4 wickets in the second innings to finish with his best match return of 9/149.

There had been considerable doubt as to whether Morkel would be able to bowl at all in the second innings following his apparent abdominal injury but he proved more than equal to the occasion, sending down an eight-over spell of sustained accuracy and pace to dismiss both opening batsmen at a personal cost of just 18 runs.

Keshav Maharaj chimed in with the wicket of Usman Khawaja to leave Australia up against it at 88/3