Johnson and Harris do damage as visitors take firm control
Australia take advantage of reverse swing at Newlands to leave South Africa reeling
CAPE TOWN, South Africa // Australia took a firm grip on the third Test on Monday as pacemen Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris snared seven wickets between them to bowl South Africa out for 287 on Day 3 at Newlands.
While Johnson combined speed and aggression to raise his series tally to 19 wickets in five innings, Harris found reverse swing to claim three key wickets as South Africa conceded a first-innings deficit of 207.
Faf du Plessis and Alviro Petersen were the only batsmen to score half-centuries for South Africa, who were bowled out within a day after Michael Clarke declared Australia’s first innings on their overnight total of 494 for seven.
Clarke elected not to enforce the follow-on and Australia advanced to 27 without loss at stumps to take an overall lead of 234 runs with two days to play.
South Africa will need something special to avoid defeat in the series decider, let alone stage a comeback.
“At the moment a draw would look good, but you never know – things can happen in the third innings, like when they were here two years ago and we bowled them out for 47,” Du Plessis said. “We have to bowl really well to give ourselves an opportunity to win the game.”
Australia’s decision to declare after a session and a half was lost to rain on Sunday proved a good one, as their seamers found early movement. Johnson claimed four for 42 off 19 overs and Harris three for 63 off 22.
In the fifth over, Harris had captain Graeme Smith caught behind for five by Brad Haddin, who was soon in action again to take a spectacular one-handed grab after James Pattinson found the inside edge of Dean Elgar’s bat (11).
Opener Petersen hit eight fours in his 53, but he then feathered a leg-side delivery from Johnson through to Haddin.
The biggest blow to South Africa came in the dismissal of Hashim Amla (38), as Harris found reverse swing to bend one through his defences shortly before lunch.
“I must be honest, I was really surprised to see the ball reverse – I think it was 27 overs when the ball started reversing,” Du Plessis said. “Especially after rain and a wet outfield, I was really surprised at that.”
Reverse swing has been a controversial topic in the series after David Warner suggested South Africa used illegal practices to obtain it in their victory in the second Test, but Johnson insisted there was nothing untoward in the Australians finding reverse swing.
“We’d seen enough to bowl cross-seam and keep a good shine on the ball,” he said. “Once we saw that the ball wasn’t swinging normally we did that straight away, so we’re not surprised that it went.”
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