Australia strengthened their position on the third day of the first Test against South Africa in Durban by building a lead of 402 runs in the second innings.
After South Africa were bowled out for 162 in response to Australia's 351 in the first innings, the visitors stuttered in their second essay but finished the day on 213/9, helped by Cameron Bancroft’s 53 and 30s by captain Steve Smith (38) and Shaun Marsh (33).
With South Africa staring at an improbable target for victory, Bancroft felt that the rough developed outside the left-hander's off-stump would make life tough, especially with Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon in the mix. In the first innings, without such help, Starc returned 5/34 and Lyon 3/50.
“There's a lot of rough developing outside the off stump for the left handers, and with Mitchell Starc in our team and the abrasiveness of the wicket, it's going to create some rough patches outside the right hander's areas as well,” said Bancroft.
“(Lyon) is a world-class bowler so he's going to be really important, but showing discipline when the ball starts reversing will be key as well.”
Bancroft echoed AB de Villiers' thoughts at the end of the second day when he said that the pitch had been deteriorating steadily as the game has progressed and conceded that batting in the second innings hadn't been easy.
“It started to reverse swing a lot more. The five overs before I got out it was starting to go quite big and I know that makes it difficult for batters starting their innings,” he said. “I think the wicket's just slowly deteriorated as the game has gone on – there are more bare patches starting to show up and the ball is reverse swinging earlier and earlier because of that abrasiveness. I imagine it will just get more and more difficult to bat, and more difficult for new batters to start their innings.”
South Africa assistant coach Malibongwe Maketa argued that South Africa fared a lot better with the ball the second time out than they did in the first innings.
“We showed a lot of fight to get Australia in a position they are in. We needed to show fight with the ball, which we did,” he said. “We showed a lot of improvement from the first innings and from that we take a lot of positives going forward to try and win the game.”
South Africa need to get the last Australian wicket when they come out on the fourth day before they get in and try to chase down the big target.
“For us it is hour-by-hour, to make sure we go out there tomorrow and knock over the two (one) wickets we need. From there we need to make sure that we look after the new ball,” said Maketa. “We know that spin can come into play quite early in this game. It is a concern and from there we've got another hurdle to go through – it is the reversing ball. It is really breaking the game down hour-by-hour for us, taking it as deep and long as possible.”