DURBAN (Reuters) - Australia were reduced to 213 for nine in their second innings after a fiery spell of fast bowling by South Africa’s Morne Morkel but the tourists lead by 402 runs after bad light ended play early on day three of the first test on Saturday.
Morkel (3-42), who has announced he will retire from all international cricket after the four-match series, produced some excellent deliveries on a slow wicket at Kingsmead as he took his tally of test wickets to 297.
But Australia remain in control of the game with what could already be a match-winning lead and if they choose to resume batting on the fourth morning they will see bowlers Pat Cummins (17) and Josh Hazlewood (4) look to build a further advantage.
The highest previous successful fourth-innings chase in tests in Durban was 340 for five by South Africa against Australia in 2002.
“It was a massive effort from the bowling unit to show the character we did today,” Morkel told SuperSport. “It’s going to be tough (with the bat), but with the way we batted in the first innings... there will be a lot of guys looking to stand up.
“It’s important that we show some fight for the rest of the series.”
The tourists began their second innings at the start of the third day as openers Cameron Bancroft (53) and David Warner (28) put on 56 for the first wicket before the latter miscued a pull off Kagiso Rabada (2-28) to substitute fielder Wiaan Mulder at mid-on.
Usman Khawaja (6) never looked settled and was caught by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock having gloved a ball from left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj (3-93), before innings top-scorer Bancroft fell five balls before lunch, walking past a delivery from Keshav Maharaj to be stumped.
The prize wicket of Australia captain Steve Smith (38) was claimed by the part-time left-arm spin of Dean Elgar, before Rabada had first innings top-scorer Mitchell Marsh caught by Hashim Amla at first slip.
It was Amla’s 100th test catch and he joins Jacques Kallis (200) and Graeme Smith (169) as only the third South African to reach that mark.
A fired-up Morkel then returned to the attack to remove Shaun Marsh (33), Mitchell Starc (7) and Nathan Lyon (2).
“We saw today it is getting harder to bat. That new ball is deteriorating quicker and quicker,” Bancroft said. “If we can squeeze a few more out and if we are disciplined tomorrow, we can create chances (with the ball).”
Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris