Weather halts Australia’s 147-2 in 3rd test against Proteas
SYDNEY (AP) — Marnus Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja made half-centuries as luckless South Africa was denied twice by the TV umpire before bad light and then rain brought an early end to the opening day of the third test at Sydney Cricket Ground.
Khawaja and Labuschagne shared a 135-run partnership after Australia won the toss and batted, chasing a sweep of the three-match series and confirm their place in the world test championship final later this year.
At stumps Wednesday, Australia was 147-2 with Khawaja unbeaten on 54.
Labuschagne was dismissed by Anrich Nortje for 79 with what was the last ball of a truncated day that lost more than three hours to the weather conditions.
The day could have been far brighter for South Africa had the television umpire agreed with its on-field colleagues with two close calls going against the tourists in an eventful middle session. Khawaja survived an lbw appeal from Simon Harmer with the second ball after lunch. The opener was given out by the on-field umpire but Khawaja immediately requested the TV umpire review which showed the ball had hit the batters glove on the way through to hitting the pad to see the decision overturned.
Labuschagne was even more fortunate when he edged a low catch to Harmer at first slip off Marco Jansen when on 70. Labuschagne stood his ground while South Africa celebrated the wicket. After several minutes of deliberation the TV umpire found that the ball had not carried cleanly through to Harmer and overturned the on-field call to earn Labuschagne a reprieve.
“All of us thought it was out so I’m annoyed,” pace bowler Nortje said. “I’m convinced it went straight in (to Harmer’s hands). I think when you look at the angles, to us, it looks like his fingers are underneath it.”
“Unfortunately we didn’t get that one and I think it would have been a big one at that stage.”
Labuschagne had earlier scored his 14th test 50 off 10 balls with a thumping pull shot off Kagiso Rabada, his ninth boundary of the innings.
Khawaja brought up his 4,000th test run in 56 matches and shortly after completed his half-century off 113 balls as he closes in on another hundred after twin centuries against England in his triumphant return to test cricket at the SCG last year.
Bad light then forced the players from the field just after the drinks break in the afternoon session. Heavy rain then fell at the venue leading to a near three-hour stoppage.
When play finally resumed just four more overs were bowled before play was again victim to poor light. But that was enough time though for the impressive Nortje (2-26) to prise out Labuschagne with a steeply rising delivery that the batter could only fend at and edge through to wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne to have Australia at 147-2.
Play was then halted by the umpires due to deteriorating light and rain showers appearing to the disappointment of the 31,264 crowd at the SCG.
“Definitely very frustrated,” said Labuschagne of his dismissal. “Obviously it always makes you very angry as a batter when you get out and then everyone walks with you off the field.”
“But at the end of the day (Nortje) bowled a really good set there. Backed it up and bowled four or five balls in the same spot and that one obviously just kicked.”
Earlier, Australia lost David Warner to Nortje, again the most threatening of the Proteas bowlers, in the fourth over but steadied to reach 68-1 at lunch.
Warner (10) took Rabada for two early boundaries but wasn’t as clinical against Nortje as he slashed at a wide ball from the pace bowler which he top-edged to Marco Jansen at first slip to have Australia at 12-1.
Australia has already won the series after two crushing defeats in the first two tests at Brisbane and Melbourne. Both tests brutally exposed South Africa’s brittle batting lineup, with the Proteas only managing a top score of 204 across its four innings.
A win for Australia in this third test would confirm its place in the world test championship final to be played at Lord’s in England in June this year.
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