Australia ended South Africa’s first innings rearguard resistance shortly after lunch and enforced the follow-on as it still eyes a dramatic victory and series clean sweep on the final day of the third Test at Sydney Cricket Ground.
At tea, South Africa were 46-1 in its second innings with skipper Dean Elgar again dismissed cheaply as Australia push hard to claim the nine more wickets it needs in 32 overs for an unlikely victory on Sunday.
Josh Hazlewood took 4-48 on his return from missing the last three tests through injury and Pat Cummins took three as the host’s dual pace attack eventually broke South Africa’s resistance for 255 all out, still 20 runs short of the follow-on target despite it being their highest score of the series.
Keshav Maharaj top scored with 53 from 81 balls and Simon Harmer made his highest test score of 47 from 165 balls as the two lower order batters shared a 85-run stand over nearly 27 overs before Hazlewood removed both with balls angling towards the stumps.
Nathan Lyon (2-88) caught and bowled Kagiso Rabada to finish the innings and Cummins immediately enforced the follow-on and gave his team 47 overs to try and bowl South Africa out again.
As he did in the first innings Cummins (1-10) made the initial breakthrough, again having Elgar (10) caught down the leg side.
It completed a miserable series for the Proteas skipper who made just 54 runs in six innings after scores of 3, 2, 26, 0, 13, 10 for an average of 9.
At tea, Sarel Erwee was 18 not out, with Heinrich Klaasen unbeaten on 18.
Earlier, South Africa ‘s tail mounted a determined rearguard action to reach 244-7 at lunch and frustrate Australia’s push for quick wickets to keep alive its hopes of an unlikely victory.
Overnight batters Harmer and Marco Jansen withstood a barrage of short pitch deliveries to deny Australia a breakthrough for well over an hour on Sunday morning, before Maharaj counterpunched for the Proteas to help them to within 32 runs of the follow-on target of 275 which would effectively end Australia’s push for an unlikely victory.
Jansen took several fearsome body blows from Pat Cummins early in the day in a courageous innings of 11 from 78 balls before his resistance was finally ended from the unlikely source of Travis Head’s part-time spin.
On Saturday, Australia had a glimpse of what appeared an unlikely victory as it took six of the 20 South African wickets it needed after Cummins declared the host’s first innings at 475-4, with Usman Khawaja top scoring with 195 not out and Steve Smith making 104 for his 30th Test century.
Cummins then took three wickets in a fearsome display of pace bowling at his home SCG, while Hazlewood picked up two and Nathan Lyon claimed another as the Proteas finished Saturday at 149-6, trailing Australia by 327 runs.
The sun is finally shining at the SCG after wet weather caused delays on the first two days before wrecking the chance of any play on Friday and up to lunch on Saturday.
A win for Australia in this third test would confirm its place in the world test championship final to be played at Lord’s in England in June.
Australia has already won the series after two crushing defeats for South Africa in the first two Tests at Brisbane and Melbourne.