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Duminy, Elgar tons set Australia huge target

History will be against Australia in their chase on day four, when they will need at least 389 to win. Never have they beaten South Africa in a Test at the WACA. Only once have they made such a hefty fourth-innings total to win a Test, and that was at Leeds in 1948, on the Invincibles tour, when Don Bradman and Arthur Morris scored centuries in pursuit of 404. Here, they need a Bradmanesque chase with no Bradmanesque batsmen.

One small comfort they can take is that history is not always repeated: just ask Dean Elgar. Four years ago, he made his Test debut at the WACA, and was bundled out for a pair, dismissed by Mitchell Johnson in both innings. Returning to the scene of his horror start might have brought nightmares, and his 12 in the first innings was an improvement, only barely. But Elgar seems an unruffled type, and his 250-run stand with JP Duminy in the second innings proved it.

Elgar and Duminy both scored hundreds on a swelteringly hot Perth day, grinding Australia over the course of two almost wicketless sessions before tea. Duminy was exquisite driving through the off side and was generally more attacking, Elgar set his mind towards crease occupation and did so for 316 deliveries. Only a few late wickets - combined with the knowledge that the injured Dale Steyn will not bowl - left Australia with the faintest glimmer of hope.

This day was about Elgar and Duminy, two men who each had made their Test debuts at the WACA but had very different memories. Elgar's pair came in 2012; four years earlier, Duminy had scored an unbeaten half-century and hit the winning runs in South Africa's unforgettable 4 for 414, the second-highest successful chase in Test history. He missed the 2012 Perth Test due to injury, so like Elgar, this was the first time he had come back as a Test player.

Their return innings were not quite the chalk and cheese of their Test debuts, but neither were they identical. Roquefort and cheddar, perhaps. Duminy scored two-thirds of his runs through the off side; Elgar made 60% of his through leg. Duminy motored along at a much quicker rate: Elgar was on 27 when Duminy joined him at the crease, yet not only did Duminy beat him to triple-figures but did so by nearly 15 overs.


Neither man gave Australia much opportunity, despite the presence of obvious cracks in the pitch, and the variable bounce that kept the odd ball low and allowed others to rear up sharply. Australia's fast bowlers - Nathan Lyon was bewilderingly not given a bowl until after lunch - found reverse swing, but Duminy and Elgar were up to the task of keeping out the good balls, even if the occasional one whizzed past the edge.

Elgar offered up one chance, when he uncharacteristically went over the top against Lyon and should have been caught by Starc, running back at mid-off. But whether it was the sun or the breeze or the difficulty of running back with the flight of the ball, Starc never looked in a comfortable position. He ended up circling like a dog chasing his tail and for much the same result - he didn't even make contact with his target.

Elgar was on 81 at the time and went on to bring up his hundred from his 255th delivery, with a drive through cover for four off Lyon. Duminy by this stage was well into triple figures, having brought up his century - his first in Tests since July 2014 - with a drive through cover for two off Mitchell Marsh from his 169th delivery. The partnership moved on to 250 - the third-highest against Australia at the WACA - before it was broken.

That came in the last over before tea, when Duminy flashed outside off and edged Peter Siddle behind on 141, a dismissal that arrived after a review of the umpire's not-out call. After tea there was more success for Australia. Elgar, on 127 from 316 deliveries and perhaps mentally tired, wafted at Josh Hazlewood and edged to gully.

Temba Bavuma fell to a short ball, something he said before the series he rarely did, when he pulled Mitchell Marsh to deep square leg with Usman Khawaja taking an excellent catch looking into the sun. Faf du Plessis added 32 to the total before he edged Starc behind to Peter Nevill. But Australia were left to rue another dropped chance in the same over when Quinton de Kock, on 1, top-edged a pull and Adam Voges, who had earlier tweaked a hamstring, ran and failed to make the take.

At the time, South Africa's lead was not yet 350. By stumps, it was nearly 400, with de Kock on 16, Vernon Philander on 23, and at least two fit tail-enders still to bat. Australia could need a world record chase to win this Test. At least they know that it was at this venue eight years ago that South Africa pursued 414, and got there with six wickets still in hand.

It was a difficult day for Australia's bowlers, who toiled in the heat for little reward. They also had to watch on as South Africa's 12th man brought on chairs and a sun umbrella for Duminy and Elgar at drinks. Not until 6pm could Australia's bowlers leave the field and take a load off properly. And yet, their work was not yet done.

Author: BRYDON COVERDALE    Source: espncricinfo

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