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  • South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test

Hosts level series after Steyn magic

The Report by Andrew McGlashan
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South Africa 423 (Duminy 123, de Villiers 116, Elgar 83, Lyon 5-130) and 270 for 5 dec (Amla 127*) beat Australia 246 (Warner 70, Morkel 3-63) and 216 (Rogers 107, Warner 66, Steyn 4-55) by 231 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Dale Steyn and South Africa showed why they are No.1 © Associated Press
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It doesn't matter how accurate the South Africa Meteorological Department is. Dale Steyn's spell-binding afternoon burst of reverse swing inspired the home side to a 231-run victory in the dying moments of the fourth day to level the series. South Africa ripped out nine wickets in the evening session while Australia lost 10 for 90 in total after an opening stand of 126 between Chris Rogers and David Warner.

With a poor forecast for the final day, Graeme Smith, who declared 40 minutes before lunch, was desperate to wrap up the win and not leave anything resting on the vagaries of the climate. He claimed the extra half an hour, which began with Australia seven down, and Steyn claimed his fourth when he trapped Ryan Harris with an iffy lbw. Rogers, who had compiled a magnificent fourth Test hundred, was run out by the substitute fielder Alviro Petersen at mid-off to end a 237-ball stay then, when Smith was told the light was too poor for his quick bowlers, Dean Elgar trapped Nathan Lyon lbw although subsequent replays showed he had found a thin edge but Australia had no reviews left.

Given the way South Africa had been hammered in Centurion, the issues they faced over the balance of their side, the lack of a main spinner, the loss of one of their frontline bowlers and a pitch that did its best to defy fast bowling it will have to go down as one of their finest victories. Australia had also started their pursuit of 448 with a rollicking partnership between Rogers and Warner that, if not quite making thoughts of a world-record chase realistic, left a South Africa victory push a distant prospect.

South Africa's opening began to be forged shortly before tea when JP Duminy ended the first-wicket stand by removing Warner. Duminy had earlier given Warner a life on 36 - the latest reprieve for him in this series - when he could not hold a return catch diving to his left as he collided with Rogers at the non-striker's end. However, he and Elgar, with his left-arm spin, were causing difficulties for both openers out of the footmarks and Duminy then beat Warner on the back foot with one that straightened just enough to clip leg stump.

Without Warner's impetus - which had included four boundaries in four balls off Morne Morkel in a stirring riposte to being peppered with short deliveries - South Africa were able to choke Australia's scoring. And then they started to get the ball to reverse. Steyn, after an indifferent spell with the new ball, had given a hint of what he may be able to produce with a period round the wicket to the openers; for new batsmen the ball reversing is a much tougher prospect.

Alex Doolan became stuck, uncertain against spin before tea and pace afterwards. He was worked over by Morkel and Vernon Philander, twice providing edges that fell short of the wicketkeeper (which went to the TV umpire) and first slip, before pushing hard enough that a nick carried to Smith. Shaun Marsh's first ball from Philander was full and straight, the batsman getting his front pad too far across, as he completed a pair to contrast sharply with his comeback hundred last week. Then came Steyn.

His team-mates helped, Morkel and Philander building the pressure on Michael Clarke with a series of dot balls, before Steyn returned to produce one of those spells that sends a tingle down the spine. Fourth ball he had Clarke pushing at a delivery outside off and the edge was brilliantly held, low down, by Faf du Plessis at second slip. Due to the low bounce, and edges not carrying, the slips stood very close which made the catch even more impressive.

With Steven Smith in his sights, Steyn then went straight, the ball ducked back into the pads this time, and middle stump would have been its destination. However, the best, at least in terms of the spectacle, was still to come when, for the second time in the match, Brad Haddin had his middle stump uprooted - perhaps the best evidence that even if a batsman knows what is coming, sometimes a bowler is just too good.

Steyn was given a brief rest after a mesmeric five-over spell that brought 3 for 11, but Australia's collapse continued when Mitchell Johnson was given lbw on review after Philander had swung one back into his pads.

Amid all this, Rogers was adding a fourth hundred to his Ashes centuries at Durham, Melbourne and Sydney. He had found himself under a modicum of scrutiny after three failures to start the series, but drove three crisp boundaries in Steyn's first two overs and was soon playing with the confidence that characterised his tons against England.

He could have been removed before tea. In the last over of the session he chased an extremely wide delivery from Steyn, but the appeal was turned down by Kumar Dharmasena and Smith declined to review only for Hot Spot to show a clear mark on the toe end of the bat. Much later, with what would have been the final ball of the day if the extra half hour had not been granted, he glanced Morkel down the leg side where de Villiers dived low to his right to claim the catch. Richard Illingworth initially gave him out, but then asked Aleem Dar, the third umpire, to check whether it had carried and the pictures showed it bounced short.

As the overs ebbed away and the sun began to disappear towards the horizon, it appeared Rogers would at least carry his team into the final day and keep alive the chances of a weather-aided escape. But the sun had not quite set on South Africa's chances and now they can open the curtains tomorrow morning after a night of celebration rather than worry.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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