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  • Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 4th day

Australia six wickets from victory over South Africa

The Report by Brydon Coverdale
November 25, 2012 « Jon Jones: I got turned down for TUF | Chartbeat test »
South Africa 388 and 77 for 4 (du Plessis 19*, de Villiers 12*) need another 353 runs to beat Australia 550 and 267 for 8 dec (Hussey 54, Morkel 3-50, Kleinveldt 3-65)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Michael Hussey scored a half-century as Australia retained control of the match on the fourth day © Getty Images
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Zero to one millimetre of rain is forecast for the final day in Adelaide. One millimetre can be enough to save a batsman if a bowler has overstepped the crease but it will not be sufficient to rescue South Africa in this Test. They will need either an unexpected deluge or something equally miraculous from their remaining batsmen if they are to avoid defeat, and although South African sides have done remarkable things before, it is impossible to see any way out of this predicament.

Michael Clarke left Adelaide Oval on the fourth evening knowing that only six wickets stood between his men and a 1-0 series lead. Even though the Australians were one bowler down after James Pattinson was ruled out of the rest of the Test summer due to injury, the strong start provided by Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon meant the effect of his absence was significantly lessened. At stumps, South Africa were 77 for 4 in their chase of 430, with AB de Villiers on 12 and Faf du Plessis on 19.

The target never appeared particularly realistic. Smith's men have done the seemingly impossible before, chasing down 414 in Perth four years ago, but the Adelaide Oval pitch had started to break up and was providing a much sterner challenge. The highest successful chase ever recorded in Test history was the 418 scored by West Indies against Australia in Antigua in 2003, and once this target had moved into such territory Clarke was happy to declare and give his bowlers four-and-a-half sessions to do their job.

His declaration paid off handsomely. In the first over of South Africa's innings, Smith edged Hilfenhaus to slip and was snapped up sharply by Ricky Ponting. Soon afterwards, Hashim Amla (17) also departed to an edge, his drive at a straight ball from Lyon flying to first slip, where Clarke juggled the chance on his second grab.

Jacques Rudolph at no point looked like a threat and was out for 3 when he clipped Lyon off his pads and was brilliantly taken low to the ground by Ed Cowan at short leg. And the man who had been at the other end while all of those wickets fell, Alviro Petersen, made it 45 for 4 in the next over when he played on to Siddle.

By the time de Villiers and du Plessis came together, the South Africans had clearly decided to shut up shop. Crease occupation was their only concern for the remainder of the day and the pair managed it. By the time stumps arrived, the South Africans had managed only one boundary in the past 43 overs, a remarkable figure given the tiny dimensions of Adelaide Oval square of the wicket. De Villiers had 12 from 101 balls; du Plessis 19 from 74.

It was hard to believe it was the same match that had produced 482 runs on the first day. Australia's runs also came quickly in the final stages of their second innings as Hilfenhaus (18 not out) and Pattinson (29 not out) found the boundary a number of times before Clarke called an end to the innings at 267 for 8, about an hour into the second session.

Earlier, it was Michael Hussey who kept the scoreboard ticking over. The South Africans really needed to pick up where they left off on the third afternoon, when their fast men troubled Australia's top order. But the runs flowed a little too easily for Hussey and Clarke during the morning, especially off the legspin of Imran Tahir, who continued to leak nearly a run a ball and ended up with the most expensive wicketless analysis ever in a Test match, 0 for 260.

Dale Steyn broke the 70-run partnership when he had Clarke lbw for 38, a hopeful review from Australia's captain not saving him. But the runs kept coming from Hussey, who was not only lightning fast between the wickets but was finding the gaps in the field with impressive regularity, and brought up his half-century from his 81st ball with a punch through cover-point for four.

Hussey fell for 54 in the last over before lunch when he tried to pull Morne Morkel and succeeded only in top-edging a catch to Steyn at midwicket. Matthew Wade departed soon after lunch when he tickled a catch behind off Morkel, but by then South Africa's task was already substantial. By stumps, substantial appeared an understatement.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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