DURBAN, March 4 (Reuters) - Australia picked up four wickets on Sunday to leave South Africa staring at an imminent defeat in the first test at Kingsmead as the hosts went to lunch on the fourth day on 63-4, still needing 354 runs to pull off an improbable win.
Opener Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and captain Faf du Plessis were all out cheaply after Australia had set South Africa 417 runs to win.
Australia elected to bat on at the start of Sunday’s play after being 213-9 overnight and added 14 runs in 18 balls before Keshav Maharaj bowled Pat Cummins to finish with figures of 4-102 and nine wickets for the match in a rare high point for the home team.
South Africa, as had been the case in their first innings, set off briskly in their chase but any hope of resistance diminished when Elgar played away from his body to a rising delivery from Mitchell Starc and steered it into the gloves of Tim Paine for just nine runs.
Hashim Amla’s arrival at the crease brought about an immediate bowling change as Australian skipper Steve Smith brought on Josh Hazlewood, who had dismissed the batsman five times in the last series between the two sides in Australia in November 2016.
Hazlewood quickly added another as he trapped Amla leg before wicket for eight runs.
AB de Villiers then returned to the pavilion after facing just one ball and without troubling the scorers.
He tried to run a quick single but was sent back and then found himself short of his crease as fielder David Warner threw the ball at the bowler’s end where Nathan Lyon whipped off the bails.
The remaining home hopes evaporated when du Plessis was clean bowled by Cummins, adding just four runs, and leaving South Africa reeling at 49-4.
Aiden Markram struck five fours as he went to lunch 38 not out, along with Theunis de Bruyn on two.
Australia have been in command for most of the test after scoring 351 in their first innings and then bowling South Africa out cheaply for 162 on a slow wicket. (Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)