The scorecard: South Africa 9-259dec. & 250 (Cook 104, Starc 4-80) lost to Australia 383 & 3-127 (Warner 47, Renshaw 34no) by seven wickets. South Africa win the series 2-1.
The day in a tweet: New era, new blood, new result! Australia snap five-match losing streak with comprehensive win in Adelaide.
The black arm bands
Players from both teams and the umpires wore black armbands with the initials ‘PH’ embroidered on them to pay tribute to the second anniversary of the passing of Phillip Hughes. Former teammates, friends and fans posted pictures of Hughes on social media to honour the former Australia batsman, who played 26 Test matches in the Baggy Green. He will forever remain 63 not out.
The early strike
With his first ball of the day, Jackson Bird removed the dangerous Quinton de Kock lbw for five. Replacing spearhead Mitchell Starc after just two overs from the left-arm tearaway, Bird trapped de Kock with a ball that pitched on middle and leg, missed the bat and struck the batsman on the bottom part of the knee roll. The animated appeal was turned down by umpire Nigel Llong, but Bird was certain and with two reviews still up his sleeve, skipper Steve Smith asked for a referral. Bird’s front foot was (just) behind the line, no mark on Hot Spot and Real Time Snicko couldn’t detect an edge. Ball tracking technology was called for by third umpire Aleem Dar and it confirmed the breakthrough for the Australians.
It was dogged. It was ugly. But ultimately, it was a century for Stephen Cook, his second in Test cricket. Cook needed 19 more runs on day four to reach triple figures and with five singles, five twos, one three and a solitary boundary through mid-wicket the 33-year-old go there. As wickets tumbled around him Cook was a pillar for the Proteas as they reeled in their first innings deficit before they slowly built a target for the Australians to chase. When the ninth wicket fell Cook was looking likely to become just the sixth South Africa opener to carry his bat throughout an entire Test innings, but a searing inswinger from Mitchell Starc cleaned up his stumps to be the last man out and put to an end to a tremendous Test match hundred.
Armed with a brand spanking new pink Kookaburra ball, Starc had it singing from the Riverbank Stand End. He produced a lovely inswinger to trap Vernon Philander lbw, which the batsman foolishly reviewed, before turning his attention to the unbeaten century-maker. Cook managed 22 runs from the 57 balls he faced from Starc, unable to fully counter the extreme pace of the left-armer. While he might not have scored prodigiously against Starc, it took one heck of a ball to dismiss Cook. From over the wicket, Starc zoomed in, fired one wide of off stump, curled it back to pitch on off stump, straighten down the line and cannon into the stumps. Even with 104 runs behind you those kind of deliveries practically impossible to stop.
The maiden 50 stand
After the first-innings debacle, David Warner and Matthew Renshaw finally walked out to bat together as Australia’s newest opening partnership. As it has been since Warner first faced the new ball five years ago, he was very much the aggressor among the two batsman, with Renshaw still finding his feet at Test level. Chasing a small total can be tricky, especially against a pink ball and on a wicket that even on day four still had enough in it for the seamers. Regardless of the target, Warner knows only one way to play, and he burst out of the gates to take the pressure off his inexperienced partner. By the time the 50-run stand was raised, Warner had struck six fours in his 37, while Renshaw played the anchor role by soaking up deliveries and contributing just eight runs. The opening stand ended on 64 in a calamitous run out when saw the veteran stranded mid-pitch for 47.
The run out
For the second time in this Test, a terrible mix up has seen an Australian batsman run out from the bowling of left-arm wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi. In the first innings it was Steve Smith who was dismissed after a mix up with Usman Khawaja. In the second innings it was Warner, who fell three runs short of a half-century when rookie Renshaw sent him back when the senior statesman had already committed to a suicidal single. One of the real joys this series has been the fielding of Temba Bavuma, a pint-sized batsman with the agility of a cheetah. His run out of Warner in Perth was breathtaking, and while Sunday’s effort was as routine as they come, it emphasised the point to think twice when Bavuma is near the ball. There was never a run in it, and when the bails were dislodged by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock, Warner turned and headed for the dressing room without looking at his partner.
The carried bat
Renshaw was determined to the point of stubbornness to be there at the end of play. His innings of 34 included five boundaries and remarkably 122 dot balls. It got to the point where Renshaw was being booed by the 19,909 people in attendance. With time ticking down before dinner would be called, each dot ball was met with a loud ‘no’ by the batsman, a boo from the crowd and a sigh from the press box. Three centuries were scored in this Test match but the biggest cheer was for Renshaw’s fourth boundary to break the shackles. He followed it up three balls later with a beautiful on-drive for four more. He was there at the non-striker’s end when fellow debutant Peter Handscomb clipped the winning runs through mid-wicket to seal the victory by seven wickets. It was the first time in 136 years that two debutants have been at the crease when the match-sealing runs were struck.
The wash up
The new era of Australian cricket started in the best possible way, with a win. It was a professional performance by Steve Smith’s men on day four. First, his bowlers claimed the final four wickets for 56 runs to set a modest target of 127. Then secondly, a positive 64-run opening stand essentially guaranteed the wicket before Renshaw and Peter Handscomb guided Australia home. While the win ends a horror five-match losing streak for the Australians, the hosts have been dominated for much of the series. South Africa, without their best batsman and bowler, hammered Australia in Perth and Hobart to seal a hat-trick of series wins in Australia. The performances of player-of-the-series Vernon Philander, Temba Bavuma, Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abbott and captain Faf du Plessis must be applauded. It’s been an intriguing series for a variety of reasons, and at the end of it the future appears as bright as a new pink ball for both teams.
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