The ebb and flow of Test match cricket makes for a compelling viewing. Half an hour ago, it was a different game altogether as Aiden Markram and Quinton de Kock were flaying Aussie bowlers to all parts of the park, threatening to make mockery of 417 target. Just then Markram got out much to the relief of harried Aussies.
As it happens, when a big wicket falls and a partnership is broken, it changes the complexion of the game quickly. Suddenly drooping Australian shoulders perked up. Starc found his mojo back and removed Philanderer, Keshav Maharaj and Rabada in quick succession to bring Australia on the verge of victory. It was just a wicket away from a well-deserved win as fading light forced captain Smith to bring Lyon and himself on in a bid to take last wicket to seal the win on Day 4. But Morne Morkel defended well and denied Australia his wicket to prolong their wait for win by a day. It is only a matter of formality now which will be completed tomorrow.
Australia needed just 16 deliveries to take the last wicket. As the match started today morning, Australia immediately took the new ball and on the fourth ball of the third over, Hazelwood trapped de Kock lbw for 83 thus completing a resounding win by 118 runs thus taking Australia 1-0 in the series.
About Aiden Markram
Tall, strong and powerful Markram has a presence at the crease. He's an aggressive opener who plays with a positive intent. He dominated the Australian bowlers, cutting, driving, pulling and negated the threat of Starc. After some anxious moments against Lyon where he survived a few close calls, Markram grew in confidence and essayed lovely drives and slog sweep against the offie.
Markram was captain and player of the tournament when South Africa won the U-19 World Cup in 2014 at UAE. The early promise shown by him is beginning to translate into performances which is a good sign for South Africa. He and his mates should be proud of his extraordinary knock under enormous pressure.
He created panic into Aussie ranks, as they looked bewildered and became increasingly despondent under sustained attack by him. Their shoulders began to sag as South Africa closed in on the target and was 136 away, when fortune favoured Australia. Against the run of play, Markram got out, trying to guide a rising delivery by Mitch Marsh to third man, secure in the knowledge that wicket-keeper Paine was standing up, but instead he ended up nicking it and Paine took a fine catch around his shoulder, which isn't easy, mind you, against a medium pacer bowling in 135 kms.
All in all, it was an absorbing Test match cricket between the two top sides in world cricket.
For South Africa, Hashim Amla, captain du Plessis and ABD have to score consistently to give their bowlers a chance to put strong Aussie batting under pressure. But South Africa would be in a dilemma whether to provide fast and bouncy pitches or prepare slow tracks. Given Australia's potent pace attack, Proteas are loathe to provide fast pitches, but slow pitches will also not help their cause, as Australian batsmen will pile up runs and then SA batsmen will have to negotiate Starc's reverse swing and Lyon's off-spin.
Currently Australia is on top and should win the series. They have a strong batting line up, made even stronger by much improved Mitch Marsh the batsman. Their bowling attack is well-balanced with Mitch Marsh chipping in with his fast medium stuff, providing rest to regular pacers and keeping them fresh to go flat out. So Australia is in a position to take advantage of whatever pitch is provided to them.