De Villiers and Rabada tighten South Africa's grip

Aubrey Yates
March 12, 2018

South Africa was 153-2 at tea - with two batsmen on half-centuries - and heading for a significant first-innings lead at St. George's Park until Mitchell Starc bowled Hashim Amla with a swinging yorker on the fourth ball of the last session to start Australia's comeback.

The major problem for South Africa is that Rabada, the team's No. 1 strike bowler, may be banned for those decisive last two games after he was charged with misconduct for bumping into Australia captain Steve Smith after getting him out in the first innings.

However, the action was overshadowed by events away from the pitch, including Cricket South Africa issuing an apology to Cricket Australia after an incident involving two of their employees being photographed with fans wearing Sonny Bill Williams masks in an apparent attempt to embarrass David Warner. The ICC is yet to release its decision on that charge.

"It's a relief at the moment it happens and then it starts to sink in a few hours afterwards, sometimes only days afterwards", he said.

Rabada's eighth wicket of the match kept the Proteas on track to level the spiteful four-test series, with Marsh to resume on 39 knowing he and Tim Paine must do the bulk of the work if the tourists are to scrape together a decent target.

The Proteas had a lead of 20 runs heading into the first session, but thanks to AB de Villiers, who finished 126 not out, and cameo innings from both Vernon Philander (36) and Keshav Maharaj (30), South Africa amassed a lead of 139.

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Rabada was responsible, bowling a brilliant delivery that nipped back just enough to hit Warner's off stump, before he celebrated by screaming in the opener's face.

The 34-year-old de Villiers, one of the outstanding players of his generation, is nearing the end of his test career and there's speculation that this might even be his last series.

And as Khawaja trudged off, it was hard to see a way out for Australia, with South Africa - greatly boosted by De Villiers' first Test ton since January 2015 - well on top.

And two South African cricket officials face internal disciplinary procedures after they were photographed smiling with a group of fans who were wearing masks aimed at taunting Australia vice-captain Warner and his wife, who is with him on tour. It was his 22nd Test century and his sixth against Australia.

De Villiers made batting look outrageously easy but he insisted it was anything but, especially when he approached three figures. I was very nervous in the 90s. It is amusing to hear someone that's played for 13-14 years say that, but it is true. "It really meant a lot to me to get that hundred". "I take no pleasure in seeing a player suspended, particularly a young player of Kagiso's talent, but he has now breached the ICC Code of Conduct on a number of occasions", said Jeff Crowe of the Emirates Elite Panel of ICC Match Referees.

In contrast, Maharaj opted for an aggressive approach at the crease, smashing three fours and two sixes in a 24-ball knock that further frustrated Australia's attack.

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