It’s been infuriating watching Maharaj bat these past few months. Wild, thoughtless and scared even, he has not fulfilled what looks like some obvious talent. Whether it was a desire to help Bavuma get to a hundred, or if someone had had a word in his ear this week, Maharaj’s approach yesterday was far more patient and responsible than at any other stage this season. There was one very elegant cover drive, and a stunning “power sweep” that flew a long way up the grass embankment for six. However, perhaps the highlight of his innings was the solidity he showed on defence and the way he left the ball. The manner of his dismissal indicated there was a little of the old Maharaj still floating around.
The future of fast bowling is in good hands, Michael Vaughan tweeted yesterday afternoon after Cummins had cleaned up the South African tail. With Cummins and Rabada rising to the fore, it’s hard to argue with the former England captain. Cummins has been superb throughout this series and on a helpful pitch here, he’s been the one Australian bowler to consistently trouble the SA batsmen. His second Test “five-for” was a rekindling of a love affair with his venue where he made his debut as an 18-year-old more than six years ago, and took 6/79 in South Africa’s second innings.
South Africa’s hefty total featured six partnerships of 50 or more, a new Test record for the Proteas. The first wicket was worth 53, the second 89, and third between Markram and De Villiers 105. The fifth wicket saw a stand of 52, the seventh 85, and the most fun was had for the ninth with Maharaj and Rabada sharing a partnership of 76. In all they kept the Australians out in the field for 136.5 overs. Painful. The word record for the most 50-run partnerships is eight, for India against England.
Renshaw and Burns only checked into the hotel on Wednesday, having the previous day helped Queensland win the Sheffield Shield. They were on a hiding to nothing against Rabada and Philander. Handscomb at this point doesn’t look a Test player. Together the three players who’ve replaced the trio involved in the sandpaper affair made eight, four and nought.
CATCH (and then some)
Despite his inconsistency with the bat, there’s no doubt that Quinton de Kock’s keeping has gone up a level this season. He’s made taking catches standing up to Philander look ridiculously easy, but yesterday’s down leg side is arguably the highlight since that ploy was adopted; he moved quickly to his right, and produced the requisite skill, anticipation and reflexes to take a stunning grab.