Pat Cummins produced a spell of bowling late on day four of the rain-affected Sydney Test that helped give Australia a genuine shot at victory and left greats of the game lauding his exploits.
The Australians tormented the South Africans after Cummins declared the hosts’ first innings closed at 4-475, reducing the Proteas to 6-149 by stumps.
Cummins and his troops are now hoping to clean up the rest of the South African batting line-up early on day five, enforce the follow-on and take another 10 wickets to clinch a dramatic win and complete a 3-0 series whitewash.
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South Africa was 3-40 when Cummins stood at the top of his mark for his second spell of the innings, before the skipper took 2-14 from six overs to leave the tourists in a precarious position.
Cummins captured the first wicket of his spell bowling around the wicket, a short leg and a leg slip eyeballing Khaya Zondo.
But while many thought the right-arm quick was about to unleash a short ball, he stunned just about all and sundry when he fired in a sizzling yorker that cannoned into Zondo’s back leg.
Zondo reviewed the umpire’s “out” decision, but technology suggested he was plumb.
Cummins then snared his second wicket of the spell with a beautiful length delivery that caught Kyle Verreynne’s outside edge, Steve Smith taking a simple catch at first slip.
Cummins finished the day with 3-29 from 14 overs, but it’s his second spell that has the cricket world raving.
“That was a great spell of fast bowling. No doubt about that. That’s just quality cricket,” Mark Taylor told Wide World of Sports.
“The fact that he went around the wicket, double bluff with the lbw of Zondo … all of us who watched that were obviously waiting for another short ball, and I think Zondo was, as well, and then to get the yorker, right on the money, get it full enough so it didn’t pitch outside leg … was a terrific piece of bowling.”
Taylor said Cummins’ spell was “right up there” with the best he had witnessed.
“It was a great spell of fast bowling. And it’s no surprise, either, because Pat does it regularly. He is a terrific fast bowler,” Taylor said.
“When Australia (needed) a wicket when he wasn’t captain they would go to Pat Cummins, and the good news is that as captain he still doesn’t leave himself out. He says, ‘Righto, I’ll give myself the ball and do the job myself’, and he did it this afternoon after tea.”
Josh Hazlewood was also brilliant in his return from an injury break.
Playing his first Test since Australia’s match against the West Indies in Perth last month, the New South Welshman finished the day with 2-29 from 12 overs.
Australia’s selectors opted for Hazlewood over Scott Boland for the Sydney Test, despite the fact the big-framed Victorian had taken 28 wickets at the average of 12.21 and strike-rate of 33.2 from six Tests.
“I thought he was particularly impressive with the new ball,” Taylor said of Hazlewood.
“Australia have got a good luxury at the moment, but they’re going to have to keep going. This idea of having a number of fast bowlers who are ready to go and ready to play is pretty handy.
“You could see that Hazlewood just looked fresh.
“There’s no doubt that someone like Scott Boland could probably feel a little aggrieved that he’s not playing because he did nothing wrong in the Test matches he played.
“If you’ve got a number of bowlers to almost rotate them … I hate to use that word, but it’s nice to have when Test matches are so close together — to have a group of fast bowlers so you can move one in and move one out.
“And Australia are going to need that, maybe in India, but probably more importantly in England when they play the Ashes and, I dare say, the World Test Championship (final) just before that. They’re going to have something like six Test matches in seven or eight weeks, so they’re going to need a group of fast bowlers.”
South Africa’s Marco Jansen (10 runs) and Simon Harper (6) will resume with the bat on day five.
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