AB de Villiers doesn’t think he’s entirely ruined Ricky Ponting’s final Test, leaving the former Australia captain the slimmest of opportunities to produce an heroic innings to beat South Africa and reclaim the No. 1 ranking for his country before retirement.
The equation certainly is stacked in South Africa’s favour, though, after de Villiers (169) and Hashim Amla (196) produced big centuries in quick time on Sunday to lift the tourists to 569 in the second innings and set Australia an unlikely victory target of 632 in the third Test.
Australia were 40 without loss at stumps on day three. About the only positives for them is there’s still two full days to play and the WACA pitch that was hostile enough early for 20 wickets to tumble in the first five sessions has flattened out completely.
“Ricky will get 250 not out in the second innings and it’ll be fantastic”
Australia coach Mickey Arthur
“We haven’t ruined his last Test match yet… hopefully we do,” de Villiers said.
“We’re aware of the fact if we go the full length of the Test match, (Australia will) come quite close. We’re not arrogant in any way, we know we’re going to have to come here and work hard. We know the Australian batters are dangerous players and they won’t be giving it away at all.”
The 37-year-old Ponting announced on the eve of the match that he’d quit after Perth, where he equalled Steve Waugh’s record of 168 Tests for Australia. He was out for 4 in the first innings, continuing a run of poor form in the series, as Australia was skittled for 163 in reply to South Africa’s 225.
Not only did the South African bowlers fire for the first time in the series to have the Australians out in their first innings before tea on day two, but the batsmen plundered 206 runs in the evening session to seize control of the match.
Chance to shine?
Australia coach Mickey Arthur said he was happy with how Australia bounced back and the strategy from here was simple: “We bat for two days, we win.”
“I was really happy with our day today – (taking) 8-330 on a really good wicket, then 0-40 at the end of the day,” Arthur said.
“I’m proud of our day’s work, but we’re paying a price for a very poor day two.”
The emotion surrounding Ponting’s retirement was supposed to spur the team to greater heights in a match that will determine top spot for 2012. The first three days have gone to top-ranked South Africa, but Arthur hasn’t written off the Test just yet.
“No,” he said, smiling.
“Ricky will get 250 not out in the second innings and it’ll be fantastic.”
The record successful fourth-innings chase is West Indies’ 418-7 to beat Australia at St. John’s in 2003. The South Africans went close to that here four years ago when they scored 414-4 – with Arthur as coach – to beat Australia and clinch the 2008 series.
The highest fourth-innings total ever was England’s 654-5, from 218 eight-ball overs, chasing 696 to beat South Africa in a famous timeless match at Durban in March, 1939, when both captains finally agreed to a draw after 10 days of play so the tourists could get a ship back to Britain.