AB’s masterclass puts SA in control

Proteas have the edge as De Villiers’ undefeated 126 steals show at St George’s

AB de Villiers rolled back the years to help South Africa assume control in the second cricket test against Australia at St George’s Park yesterday.

De Villiers scored the 22nd century of his test career – and his first in three years – to see South Africa through to 382 in the first innings.

That gave the home side a lead of 139 on the first innings and by the close on day three, the Australians had erased the deficit and reached 180 for five. That placed them 41 runs ahead, but with only five second innings wickets remaining.

Usman Khawaja stood firm for the tourists, until right before the close, when he became Kagiso Rabada’s third victim of the innings, trapped leg before wicket for 75.

But the show belonged to De Villiers yesterday.

It was the former South African captain’s sixth hundred against Australia and while his fellow batsmen struggled to score at a decent rate, he maintained a strike rate of 86.30 in his dominant 126 not out.

It was an innings of the highest quality from the 34-year-old and his effort once again underlined his brilliance.

His knock lasted 146 balls and featured 20 fours and one six. The Proteas’ last three batsmen managed to assist De Villiers in producing 155 runs.

Vernon Philander weighed in with a valuable 36, while Keshav Maharaj swung lustily in making 30 off only 24 balls, clubbing three fours and two sixes, with both maximums coming off spinner Nathan Lyon.

The South Africans were pumped after their batting effort and it was a fired-up Rabada who made the initial breakthrough with a snorter of delivery that ripped through David Warner’s defence and clipped the outside of off-stump.

Again there was a passionate celebration from Rabada, but no contact this time, although there were a couple of shouts directed at the controversial left-hander as he left the scene.

Warner made 13 in a partnership of 27 for the first wicket with Cameron Bancroft, who was the second man out with the total on 62.

Bancroft scored 24 before he chopped a Lungi Ngidi delivery onto his wicket.

Proteas left-arm spinner Maharaj was introduced into the attack in the 13th over and looked threatening from the outset.

He eventually got his reward when he had Aussie captain Steve Smith caught behind by Quinton de Kock for 11, a mere eight minutes before tea.

Rabada was at it again when he induced an edge off the bat of Shaun Marsh (1) through to De Kock off the second ball after tea.

The Aussies consolidated after that and an 87-run stand for the fifth wicket between Khawaja and Marsh helped them resuscitate the innings until the former’s departure nine minutes before stumps.

Khawaja, who had battled for runs on this tour, was impressive from the moment he came in at 27 for one. Mitchell Marsh was prepared to play the perfect supporting role as he played a watchful innings of 39 not out at the other end.

The first session will prove crucial for both teams today as Marsh and Tim Paine (5) strive to preserve Australia’s 1-0 series advantage.

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