JOHANNESBURG – South Africa set Australia 612 to win the fourth and final Test at the Wanderers on Monday.
The South Africans somewhat surprisingly declared at tea on 344/6, with Philander on 33 and Temba Bavuma unbeaten on 35.
Despite claims of an injury-laden dressing room, Morne Morkel (side-strain), Vernon Philander (groin) and Kagiso Rabada (back) all did warm-ups at the tea interval.
The South African dressing room had turned into a virtual infirmary, with the home team down to just one fit bowler, as they close in on an historic Test series win against Australia.
Initially all thoughts of a declaration were put to one side, with Morkel, Philander and Rabada all struggling, leaving just Keshav Maharaj as the only healthy bowler.
With a first Test series win in 48 years on home soil against Australia on the line, the home side’s circumspection was understandable.
South Africa are 2-1 up, sp there is no need to take any risks.
Faf du Plessis, who also required treatment after being struck on his right forefinger for the second time in his innings, notched up his eighth Test century.
It meant Hashim Amla was the only member of South Africa’s top five not to make a century in the series.
Meanwhile, Dean Elgar’s epic ‘blockathon’ eventually ended as he attempted an uncharacteristically attacking stroke that he top-edged, giving Shaun Marsh at midd-off a catch.
Elgar had scored 81, a bruising six-hour 20-minute stay at the crease in which he faced 250 balls, 215 of which he didn’t score off.
His partnership with Du Plessis, who scored 120 (227 minutes, 178 balls, 18x4, 2x6) was worth 170 for fourth wicket.