Australia crushes South Africa inside 2 days in 1st test

December 18, 2022 GMT
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Australia's Pat Cummins holds the ball up to the crowd after taking five wickets during day two of the first cricket test between South Africa and Australia at the Gabba in Brisbane, Australia, Sunday, Dec.18, 2022. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)
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Australia's Pat Cummins holds the ball up to the crowd after taking five wickets during day two of the first cricket test between South Africa and Australia at the Gabba in Brisbane, Australia, Sunday, Dec.18, 2022. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Australia’s bowlers ripped through South Africa’s brittle batting lineup again Sunday to complete a six-wicket victory in a wild series-opening test that saw 34 wickets fall inside two days.

Australia resumed on 145-5 and was bowled out for 218 shortly before lunch on Day 2, taking a 66-run first-innings lead. The Australians then skittled South Africa for 99 in the second innings, with skipper Pat Cummins taking a five-wicket haul. Scott Boland and Mitchell Starc claimed two wickets each. In the process Starc became the seventh Australian bowler to take 300 career test wickets.

On a green, grassy pitch offering plenty of assistance for bowlers, and with two of the best bowling attacks in the world going head to head, wickets tumbled at the Gabba.

In keeping with the pattern of the match, Australia made heavy work in chasing the modest 34 runs needed for victory, losing four wickets before Marnus Labuschagne completed the job in the 8th over of the innings.

Kagiso Rabada (4-13) took all four wickets to fall in Australia’s second innings, including David Warner, who was caught at slip for three and will be under further pressure to retain his place in the team heading into the Boxing Day test at Melbourne.

“Wasn’t much fun for us batters out there, to be honest,” said Steve Smith, who scored 36 and 6 in the match. “It was a very challenging wicket. Lots of seam movement, very up and down, divots on the wicket.

“So, wasn’t much fun but fortunately we were on the right end of it.”

Earlier Sunday, Rabada took three wickets to help restrict Australia’s first-innings lead, while Marco Jansen (3-32) took the key wickets of Travis Head and Cameron Green within three balls to end a dangerous counterattack.

Jansen first had Green (18) edging through a sharp chance to Maharaj at third slip, who could only parry the ball up for Sarel Erwee to complete the catch running around from his first slip position.

Two balls later Jansen got the big wicket of Head, who fell in the nineties for the second time in three tests this summer, when he was caught behind down the leg side after the merest of touches off his glove.

Head made 92 off 96 balls, with 13 boundaries and a six, in his usual counter-punching style and was the only batsman to appear comfortable in navigating the tricky Gabba pitch conditions.

Lungi Ngidi (1-35) removed Starc with a sharp caught and bowled chance for 14, before Rabada removed Cummins and Nathan Lyon for ducks to ensure their was no wag in Australia’s tail.

Australia would have been disappointed to have not built a bigger lead but Cummins ensured that the final 20 minutes of the morning session were fruitful by trapping Dean Elgar (2) lbw in the second over.

Australia doubled-down on its breakthrough with Starc (2-26) taking his 300th test wicket in trademark style by bowling van der Dussen through the gate with an in-swinging delivery.

“(It’s) very cool, I’m very privileged,” said Starc, who is the seventh Australian to achieve the 300-wicket milestone. “I’ll reflect on it more later. It’s one to reflect on when it’s all done.

“The last 18 months, two years has been some of the best test cricket I’ve played.”

After lunch, Khaya Zondo (36 not out) and Temba Bavuma showed some brief resistance to whittle away Australia’s lead but Nathan Lyon struck having Bavuma trapped lbw to trigger a collapse of 6 wickets for just 22 runs.

Boland (2-14) struck twice in the next over to remove Kyle Verreynne and Marco Jansen for ducks, before Keshav Maharaj (16) was caught behind off Starc.

Cummins took the remaining three wickets for his eighth five-wicket haul to set up what appeared a modest target of 34 runs for victory before the pitch again proved treacherous for Australia’s top order.

“I think so, in Australia anyway, in terms of pace and bounce and seam,” said Smith when asked after the test if it was the toughest pitch he’s batted on. “It’s not too often you see a test match over in two days.”

The last time Australia won a test in less than two days was in 2002 when Stephen Waugh’s team dismissed Pakistan for 59 and 53 in Sharjah.

The quality of the pitch will be under the scope, with the contest far more in favor of the bowlers than usual.

South Africa skipper Elgar said he didn’t think it was a fair contest.

“Still trying to wrap my brain around what’s happened,” he said. The pitch “was pretty spicy.”

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