Cummins tears apart South Africa

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

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    An extraordinary spell of old-ball bowling by Pat Cummins yesterday turned the third Test in Cape Town on its ear after Dean Elgar and AB de Villiers had threatened to bat Australia out of the match.

    Batting first South Africa surely would be unhappy with anything less than 360 on this unusually flat Newlands pitch which offered minimal seam movement, barely any spin, and consistent pace and bounce.

    At 8-266 they finished day one at risk of squandering a gilded opportunity to build a big total in batting-friendly conditions.

    South Africa were in a dominant position at 2-220 early in the last session, with Elgar anchoring the innings on 106no and de Villiers in ominous touch on 64no.

    Cummins had laboured to that point, having taken 0-52 from 13 overs as he continually bled boundaries through the off side by over pitching. Then, all of a sudden, the young Australian found his length and ran amok.

    In an eight-over spell of remarkable quality Cummins took 4-12. His momentum was started by a rare false stroke from de Villiers who punched a full delivery to David Warner who completed a simple catch at mid-off.

    Cummins must have felt relieved given the ease with which the SA champion had handled him until then.

    He made the most of that lucky break by aiming a series of searching deliveries at SA skipper Faf du Plessis, drawing him wider and wider away from the stumps.

    This set-up culminated in du Plessis edging to second slip from a Cummins delivery which bounced sharply from a length.

    Cummins’ third wicket was a carbon copy as he had Bavuma feeding the slips cordon once more. That brought to the crease the ever-dangerous Quinton de Kock, boasting an average of 43 in his six Tests against Australia.

    Cummins owns arguably the best bouncer in Test cricket and he surprised the SA wicketkeeper-batsman with a searing delivery.

    Pat Cummins

    (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

    De Kock tried to hook the bouncer but succeeded only in feathering it through to Tim Paine to cap off a phenomenal burst from Cummins.

    In the first two sessions, he, Starc and Lyon had all bowled poorly, struggling to find the correct length on a true pitch.

    While Cummins and Starc overpitched too often, Lyon had erred on the short side, when he needed to be drawing the South African batsmen forward.

    It was Josh Hazlewood who was the stand out in the first two sessions of the day. Early on he regularly located a perfect length which caught the batsmen on the crease and earned him the wicket of opener Aiden Markram, who edged to second slip.

    Then after lunch he launched into a nasty spell of bowling in which he broke Elgar’s helmet and had him weaving, ducking and swaying.

    It was a rearing Hazlewood delivery which dislodged Hashim Amla who was late on the bouncer and skied it to fine leg.

    Then de Villiers and Elgar cantered to a stand of 128 in 30 overs, looking as though they could bat unhindered for the rest of the day.

    Instead, Cummins intervened, producing what could yet turn out to be the most valuable spell of his Test career.

    The 24-year-old quick has put Australia in a strong position in the pivotal third Test of this deadlocked series.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (79)

    • March 23rd 2018 @ 7:08am
      Worlds Biggest said | March 23rd 2018 @ 7:08am | ! Report

      What a spell by Cummins, good batting wicket and the Proteas were in total control. Ronan thought Newlands always assisted the bowlers with generally green decks ?

      • Roar Guru

        March 23rd 2018 @ 11:02am
        Matt H said | March 23rd 2018 @ 11:02am | ! Report

        The pitch was a little odd, but let’s wait and see how Australia bat on it before deciding. ABDV can look comfortable on any pitch.

        • Columnist

          March 23rd 2018 @ 12:16pm
          Ronan O'Connell said | March 23rd 2018 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

          Yeah Newlands is historically a very good pitch for quicks with plenty of seam movement on offer, but this deck is much more batting friendly.

          Australia did really well to limit them to 8-266. This pitch is similar to the one last time Australia and SA played here four years ago when Australia made 500 batting first.

      • March 23rd 2018 @ 12:13pm
        jameswm said | March 23rd 2018 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

        Funnily enough, a flat deck suited SA, who only need to draw the series.

        So what do we get?

        It was a little slow, but very little seam or spin and consistent bounce. Our batsmen need to cash in.

    • March 23rd 2018 @ 7:14am
      Nudge said | March 23rd 2018 @ 7:14am | ! Report

      I wouldn’t say Australia are in a strong position Ronan. I’d still have RSA comfortably in front. Runs on the board. Least we are still in it though

      • Roar Guru

        March 23rd 2018 @ 9:22am
        spruce moose said | March 23rd 2018 @ 9:22am | ! Report

        Hard to say who’s ahead in this test.

        The only thing for certain is that Cummins ensured that Australia aren’t out of it.

        300 will be very hard. The South African tail doesn’t wag, and Elgar doesn’t have it in him to go on the tonk for quick runs.

        • March 23rd 2018 @ 10:07am
          Brian said | March 23rd 2018 @ 10:07am | ! Report

          SA should only get about 280 but I doubt Australia will make more. In 4 innings Australia have made 351 and 3 scores in the 200s. Anything less then 350 and they will be behind in the game.

      • March 23rd 2018 @ 12:15pm
        jameswm said | March 23rd 2018 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

        SA comfortably in front? I know we go better batting first, but surely we’re in front if we dismiss them for 280 odd.

        Still, the old saying is you can’t comment on a pitch till both teams have batted on it. I thought overall our quicks were too short, esp the right armers.

        Smith can’t keep “failing” all series. He’s due for a score. SMarsh too.

      • Columnist

        March 23rd 2018 @ 12:18pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | March 23rd 2018 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

        “I’d still have RSA comfortably in front. “

        You’re a true pessimist Nudge!

        • March 23rd 2018 @ 1:17pm
          Nudge said | March 23rd 2018 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

          I am mate. I prefer to not get my hopes up.
          In saying that, my theory is that the team batting 2nd needs to lead by around 60 after the first innings for the game to be around dead even. That means if South Africa make 280, (they may make a bit more, although they could be out for 266) that means we have to make around 340 for the game to be even. That’s a big big ask against this attack, no matter how flat the wicket is. Rabada and Morkel will be bowling very fast.
          I’m sticking with South Africa still a fair bit in front

      • March 23rd 2018 @ 3:01pm
        vrx said | March 23rd 2018 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

        SA’s senior guys (ABDV, Hash, Faf, Verne and Morne) are desperate to win at home against the Aussies. I reckon winning this series ranks second in their list of the “holy grail’ (World Cup 2019 being numero uno).

        If Aus can achieve a first innings lead here, I feel the pressure will get to SA and they won’t be able to handle it.

    • March 23rd 2018 @ 7:33am
      Sam said | March 23rd 2018 @ 7:33am | ! Report

      Hard to know if we are on top or just still in the contest. Working late I watched most of this and with 2 crucial dropped chances Australia got very ragged by the end of the 2nd session.

      The pitch was doing nothing movement wise but was oddly threatening to get faster as day wore on. Cummins then ran through them.

      Australia must capitalise with a poultice of runs from all batsmen if they want to grab this series by scruff of neck.

      • March 23rd 2018 @ 2:35pm
        Pedro the Maroon said | March 23rd 2018 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

        Yep Lyon dropping Elgar’s dolly of a catch when he was 40-odd may end up being the difference between winning and losing.

    • March 23rd 2018 @ 7:37am
      George said | March 23rd 2018 @ 7:37am | ! Report

      If the ball does anything when SA bowl, 300 will look a decent score.

    • March 23rd 2018 @ 8:08am
      Justin said | March 23rd 2018 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      Hard to say who is on top right now. 250+ could be a good 1st innings score. Evenly balanced would be my pick.

    • March 23rd 2018 @ 8:10am
      John Erichsen said | March 23rd 2018 @ 8:10am | ! Report

      It will be interesting to see what the SA bowling attack can get out of this pitch. So far, it looks a quality batting strip.

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