There might still be hope for South Africa to claim a 3-0 whitewash in Australia.
An unbroken 60-run second wicket partnership between Hashim Amla and Neil McKenzie raised South African hopes of saving the match as the Proteas reached 62 for one at stumps in their second innings on the fourth day of the third Test against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Tuesday.
Shortly after the tea-break Australia had declared their second innings closed on 257 for four to set South Africa a sporting target of 376 runs for victory.
Amla (30 not out) and McKenzie (25 not out) displayed some stoic defence, mixed with occasional aggression, to defy Australia’s bowlers for 25 overs before stumps were drawn with South Africa needing a further 314 runs for victory.
However, Graeme Smith’s fractured hand means that South Africa are effectively two wickets down and, on a pitch that is producing some alarming variable bounce, playing for a draw may be their best option on day five of the test.
With Smith missing from the top of South Africa’s batting order the Proteas, somewhat surprisingly, opted to use fast bowler Morne Morkel as a makeshift opener but the experiment did not last long as Morkel was out for a duck when he became left-arm fast bowler Doug Bollinger’s first test wicket.
Bollinger found the leading edge of Morkel’s bat and the chance looped to Mitchell Johnson at mid-on who took a tumbling catch moving to his left.
Bollinger ended the day with figures of one for 11 off four overs.
Half-centuries from Ricky Ponting and Simon Katich had helped Australia to their final total.
Ponting was in an aggressive frame of mind and he brought up his 44th test match half-century off 53 balls.
Unfortunately for Australia’s captain he fell soon after reaching the landmark when he became Morkel’s second wicket of the innings after he attempted to cut a ball that cramped him for room.
Ponting could only manage to chop the ball on to his stumps to be out for 53 off 57 balls with nine fours. Ponting’s dismissal signalled the end of 72-run partnership for the second wicket that Ponting had shared with Katich.
While Ponting was playing aggressively Katich was playing a more measured innings and he made his way to 61 off 136 balls before he shuffled across his stumps to a Dale Steyn delivery to be out lbw.
Michael Hussy and Michael Clarke then set out in search of quick runs and the pair added 76 runs for the fourth wicket before Clarke holed out to Hashim Amla at deep midwicket off the bowling of left-arm spinner Paul Harris.
The first Australian wicket to fall on the day was that of Matthew Hayden who dragged a delivery from Morkel on to his stumps while swinging across the line.
Morkel was the pick of South Africa’s bowlers and he finished with figures of two for 38 off 12 overs.
Matthew Hayden, Simon Katich, Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke, Andrew McDonald, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Hauritz, Peter Siddle, Doug Bollinger
Graeme Smith (captain), Neil McKenzie, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Mark Boucher (wk), Morne Morkel, Paul Harris, Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini