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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.
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.