Second innings stutters but Bancroft fifty helps Aussies to dominant position.
Australia batted their way to a position of utter dominance in the first Test in Durban despite spirited persistence from South Africa with the ball.
The tourists ended a third day that finished early due to bad light on 213/9, but after earning a first-innings lead of 189, they find themselves 402 runs ahead with one wicket remaining and two days left to play.
Opener Cameron Bancroft is the innings’ top-scorer after a battling 53. He was tested by some fine bowling from Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, all of whom beat him at various times. But he played with positivity and determination even as David Warner (caught at wide mid-on for 28 trying to pull Rabada) and Usman Khawaja (caught behind for 6 off Keshav Maharaj) fell around him.
Day three finishes with Australia 213/9, leading by 402 runs. Three wickets for Morne Morkel, who needs just three more to reach 300 in Tests! #SAvAUS— ICC (@ICC) March 3, 2018
Bancroft was determined to use his feet to the spinner and that was eventually his undoing shortly before lunch as Maharaj spun one out of the footholes as the right hander advanced, leaving de Kock an easy stumping.
Steve Smith was the next to fall. He had not long previously narrowly escaped a huge lbw shout and then referral off Maharaj, who skidded one on to his pads with the ball’s impact judged to be just outside the line of the stumps. The Australian did eventually fall to a left-arm spinner – for the second time in the match – but this time it was the occasional tweak of Dean Elgar, who pitched in line and turned one to beat Smith’s attempted sweep shot. Though the world No.1 Test batsman reviewed, he was bang in front and, on 38, became a prized scalp for the South African opening bat.
South Africa continued to chip away as the ball regularly turned and occasionally stuck in the pitch. Shaun Marsh (33), Tim Paine (14) – another Maharaj victim – and Mitchell Marsh (6) fell in quick succession, after which only Pat Cummins offered much in the way of solidity or runs, ending the day 17 not out alongside Josh Hazelwood on 4 not out. Mitchell Starc (7) and Nathan Lyon (2) both fell victim to Morkel.
Though Faf du Plessis can be happy with the work of his bowlers on day 3 (Morkel and Maharaj took three each, Rabada took two and Elgar one), the first-innings deficit means they remain firmly behind in the game heading in to day four, even with another early finish due to bad light today. Assuming they manage to finish things off swiftly on the fourth morning, they will have to bat for the better part of two days chasing over 400 runs on a pitch that will have Nathan Lyon rubbing his hands together. It is a mountainous task.