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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Australia continue to dominate South Africa: T3 D4

Australia 7/494 dec & 0/27  ( 6ov, Warner 25*/17b/4x4, Rogers 1*/19b) lead South Africa 287 (82.5ov, duPlessis 67/135b/6x4, Petersen 53/62b/8x4, Amla 38, Philander 37*, Johnson 19-5-42-4, Harris 22-3-63-3, Pattinson 2/77, Watson 1/34) by 234 runs with all second innings wickets in hand: T3/3 D3/5 at Newlands, CapeTown.

By declaring at their overnight score and then dismissing South Africa relatively cheaply Australia strengthened their grip on the Test. Whether they should have enforced the follow on is, however, a moot point.

I agree - just - with Michael Clarke's decision, principally because his main bowlers should benefit from a rest before starting again. Yet I hope that he makes a good choice about when to declare, and what target to set.

Mitchell Johnson yet again and Ryan Harris were the standout bowlers for Australia. They were chiefly responsible for reducing the Proteas to 6/146 before Faf du Plessis and Vernon Philander led a lower order revival of sorts, though not one to avoid the possibility of the follow on, not to mention a thumping deficit.

 There are two days, each with, like today, an extra half hour allocated to make up partly for the half day lost on D2. Fine weather is forecast for each, so Australia should be able to force a victory and take the series. Yet the wicket is still playing OK ( not surprising for its third day), and South Africa's top two batters Hashim Amla and A B deVilliers had modest first innings which will make them hungrier for the second innings. Graeme Smith, who announced his retirement after cloe of play, might like to go out with a bang rather than the whimpers he's had with the bat this series.

Australia will - must - be looking to win. South Africa, normally more defensively minded, will either hope for a generous declaration to tempt them or try to bat out the draw, as they did in Adelaide in 2012. The next two days may not, after Australia's second innings,  be scintillating but there's enough talent in South Africa's batting ranks to make for a tough contest.

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