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PERTH, Australia: Pace spearhead Dale Steyn rediscovered his best form to bowl South Africa into a commanding position on the second day of the third and final Test against Australia at the WACA Ground yesterday.
Steyn’s four-wicket haul helped decimate the Australian first innings and hand his side a 62-run lead, before Proteas batsmen Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla ripped the match away from the home side.
Skipper Smith and Amla shared in a thrilling 178-run stand for the second wicket at almost seven runs an over as the tourists took a stranglehold on the top ranking in Test cricket.
At stumps, South Africa were 230 for two in their second innings, representing an overall lead of 292 runs with eight wickets left and three days still to play.
Amla was on 99 from just 84 balls with his 18th Test century beckoning, while Jacques Kallis, dropped on three by Nathan Lyon from the bowling of Mitchell Starc, was on 17.
The highest successful run chase at the WACA is South Africa’s 414 for four in 2008.
Smith fell for 84 late in the day, brilliantly caught by a diving Lyon at deep square leg off Mitchell Starc to end a devastating partnership in just 25.3 overs with Amla.
Defending just 225 after winning the toss and electing to bat on the opening day, the Proteas rallied behind the fast bowling of Steyn to rout the home side for 163 off 53.1 overs. Steyn had barely been a factor in the series, with just five wickets in the first two Tests, but tore through the Australian top order to finish with four for 40 off 16 overs.
Vernon Philander, who picked up two for 55 including the prized wicket of retiring Australian champion Ricky Ponting, said the Proteas had seized all the momentum in the Test on the back of Steyn’s early salvo.
“He’s the number one bowler in the world for a reason,” Philander said. “When you see him do that it is special and to be able to share the new ball with him is something special.
“The way he can deliver in big moments is unbelievable.”
Having already claimed the wicket of opener Ed Cowan for a first-ball duck late on the first day, Steyn devastated the home side in the first 30 minutes yesterday.
Australia resumed at 33 for two and collapsed dramatically.
In his first over of the day, Steyn removed careless opener David Warner, caught behind for 13 when he slashed at a wide delivery, despite the Australian asking for the decision to be reviewed.
Steyn then removed night watchman Lyon three balls later for seven, caught at gully by Faf du Plessis.
Ponting strode to the crease to huge applause in his farewell Test, but lasted just over 15 minutes before being trapped lbw by Philander for four, another Australian decision review failing.
Australian skipper Michael Clarke’s golden run of form came to an end when he became Steyn’s fourth victim, caught behind for just five from a searing delivery.
Wade top-scored with a counter-attacking 68 that included three sixes and later put a brave face on Australia’s predicament after they conceded 206 runs in the final session.
“We didn’t bowl well and they counter-attacked really well, almost going at a one-day pace,” he said. “We don’t feel like the series is slipping away, we’ve had a couple of bad sessions in a row, but we are lucky that it is day two and if things go well we’ll be batting tomorrow at some stage and batting on day four, which is probably going to be the best time to bat.” REUTERS