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.


Kyrgios withdraws from French Open, citing illness

Updated 24 May 2019
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Kyrgios withdraws from French Open, citing illness

  • Roger Federer plays down chances of his winning the mega title

PARIS: After a tantrum in Italy last week, Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the French Open on Friday.

The ATP said the Australian player cited illness as the reason.

Last week at the Italian Open, the 36th-ranked Kyrgios was defaulted and fined during his second-round match after an outburst of rage. Trailing against Norwegian qualifier Casper Ruud, Kyrgios slammed his racket to the clay and kicked a water bottle. Then he picked up a white chair and flung it onto the court.

Kyrgios was fined and lost ATP points but escaped suspension and was expected to play in Paris.

His withdrawal came only days after Kyrgios posted a video online in which he said the French Open “sucks” when compared to Wimbledon, where he trained recently.

In 2015, Kyrgios insulted Stan Wawrinka with crude remarks during a match in Montreal. He was fined $12,500 and given a suspended 28-day ban. He also attracted criticism for deciding not to play at the Olympics because of a spat with an Australian team official, and for firing back at retired players who have offered advice.

Also on Friday, Roger Federer played down his chances of winning the French Open on his first appearance at Roland Garros since 2015, saying that title-winning form might not be “in his racquet.”

The 20-time Grand Slam champion missed the French Open in 2016 through injury before sitting out the next two clay-court seasons in order to focus on Wimbledon.

But he will make his Roland Garros return on Sunday with a first-round tie against unheralded Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

Federer admitted that he is unsure of his title chances, but did compare his current situation with when he ended a five-year Grand Slam drought at the Australian Open in 2017.

“(I) don’t know (if I can win the tournament). A bit of a question mark for me. Some ways I feel similar to maybe the Australian Open in ‘17,” the 2009 French Open winner said.

“A bit of the unknown. I feel like I’m playing good tennis, but is it enough against the absolute top guys when it really comes to the crunch? I’m not sure if it’s in my racquet.

“But I hope I can get myself in that position deep down in the tournament against the top guys. But first I need to get there and I know that’s a challenge in itself.”

Despite being the third seed, Federer faces a tricky draw, with a possible quarter-final against Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas — who beat him in the Australian Open last 16 — and a potential last-four clash with 11-time champion and old adversary Rafael Nadal.

Meanwhile, Nadal said on Friday that he “doesn’t care” if he is the red-hot favorite to lift a record-extending 12th French Open title, insisting that there are a host of players in contention for the trophy.

The world number two holds an incredible French Open win-loss record of 86-2, and hit top form by winning his ninth Italian Open last week with a final victory over old rival Novak Djokovic.