Australia on the rack at 3 down and 524 runs behind South Africa

When bad light ended play early, Australia was reeling at 88-3 and 524 runs behind in Johannesburg. (REUTERS)
Updated 02 April 2018
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Australia on the rack at 3 down and 524 runs behind South Africa

JOHANNESBURG: Africa trio Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, and Morne Morkel did most of the damage to leave Australia staring at a heavy defeat and a series loss on the penultimate day of the fourth and final test on Monday.
Du Plessis struck his eighth test century and combined in a 170-run stand for the fourth wicket with Elgar, who made 81, as the home team declared on 344-6 in the second innings to set Australia a near-impossible victory target of 612 at the Wanderers.
When bad light ended play early, Australia was reeling at 88-3 and 524 runs behind. Paceman Morkel, still nursing a left side strain he sustained earlier in the test, trapped openers Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns leg before wicket.
The highest winning fourth-innings score in test cricket was 418-7 by West Indies against Australia in 2003. To win in Johannesburg, Australia needs nearly 200 more, and would have to make the second-highest fourth-innings total ever — no matter the result — in nearly 150 years of test cricket.
A draw is by far the most realistic aim.
“Tomorrow’s about coming out and just putting in a good performance for Australia, try and do the country proud and just try and really knuckle down and be proud of our performance tomorrow,” Burns said. “It’s going to be a grind, it’s day five, last day of a really tough series, and there’s a hell of a lot of motivation to do well.”
South Africa is 2-1 up and on the brink of beating Australia in a home series for the first time since 1970. Australia has already been hurt by the ball-tampering scandal of the third test, which led to long-term bans for captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft, and led to the short-notice call-ups of Burns and Renshaw.
For South Africa, Du Plessis hit 120 with 18 fours and two sixes despite twice being hit on the right index finger, a digit he broke earlier in the season.
“That would have motivated him more,” teammate Elgar said. “Made him hungrier to stay out there and fight through the pain. That’s his character when he’s batting.”
Opening batsman Elgar was much less expansive as he ground out an ultra-patient 81 off 250 deliveries.
After du Plessis and Elgar were dismissed, Temba Bavuma (35) and Vernon Philander (33) piled on the agony for Australia with an unbeaten partnership of 71 for the seventh wicket.
Paceman Pat Cummins was the most productive bowler, taking 4-58 to finish with a career-best nine wickets in the match.
South Africa batted almost leisurely after starting the day on 134-3, and finally declared at tea. It seemed the home side was giving Morkel, playing his last test before retirement, a chance to recover from the left side strain. Kagiso Rabada was also carrying a lower back strain, and Vernon Philander had his groin strapped.
But all three bowled, and Morkel was the most effective.
His in-swinger trapped Renshaw lbw for 5 with the total on 21.
Usman Khawaja was then out for 7 after opting for a review when a ball from slow left-armer Keshav Maharaj pitched outside off stump. The batsman suggested he played a shot and the Australia No. 3 was unhappy to be sent packing.
Morkel claimed the third lbw of the innings to dismiss Burns for 42.
Peter Handscomb was 23 not out and Shaun Marsh undefeated on 7 at the close.


Finch's century helps fire Australia to eight-wicket win over Pakistan

Updated 23 March 2019
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Finch's century helps fire Australia to eight-wicket win over Pakistan

SHARJAH: Aaron Finch's fine century drove Australia to a convincing eight-wicket win over a new-look Pakistan in the first one-day international on Friday.
The Austraian skipper scored 116 off 135 balls for his 12th one-day international century that helped his team overhaul the 281-run target in 49 overs on a flat Sharjah stadium pitch.
The win gives Australia the lead in the five-match series and has come on the back of their 3-2 series win in India earlier this month.
Finch's match-winning knock overshadowed Haris Sohail's maiden one-day hundred (101 not out) which helped Pakistan to 280-5 in their 50 overs.
The 32-year-old smashed Shoaib Malik for a huge six towards deep mid-wicket to complete his century -- his first since June last year against England at Chester-Le-Street -- off 120 balls.
Finch, who knocked four sixes and eight boundaries, added an innings-building 172 runs for the second wicket with Shaun Marsh who scored an unbeaten 91 off 102 balls with four boundaries and two sixes.
With 46 needed Finch became Mohammad Abbas's maiden wicket but Peter Handscomb hit 30 not out to help Marsh cross the line.
Finch and Marsh came together after opener Usman Khawaja fell for 24 to medium pacer Faheem Ashraf, the only other success Pakistan's new-look bowling attack could achieve.
Pakistan rested six of their key players including regular skipper Sarfraz Ahmed in order to keep them fresh for the World Cup starting in UK from May 30.
But the young and inexperienced Pakistan led by Malik proved no match for Australia, who are on a roll after their win in India earlier this month.
Left-hander Sohail, who reached 1,000 runs in his 27th one-day international when on 40, anchored Pakistan's innings, adding 98 for the third wicket with Umar Akmal who made a 50-ball 48 in his first international match for two years.
Sohail took a single to complete his hundred in the last over, finishing with six boundaries and a six.
Pakistan had handed one-day debuts to opener Shan Masood and Abbas -- who have played 15 and 14 Tests respectively.
Masood put on 35 in an opening stand with Imam-ul-Haq (17) before off-spinner Nathan Lyon dismissed Imam in the seventh over, caught and bowled.
Masood, who hit five boundaries in his 62-ball 40, was then bowled by paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile who finished with 1-38 in his 10 overs.
Umar smashed three sixes in one Jhye Richardson over but fell one short of his half century.
Malik fell for 11 and Ashraf and Imad Wasim scored 28 each.
Wasim hit four boundaries and a six during his 13-ball unbeaten knock, helping Pakistan to 55 runs in the last five overs.
Sunday's second ODI is also being played in Sharjah, with the third in Abu Dhabi (March 27) and the last two in Dubai (March 29 and 31).