Australian opener Cameron Bancroft confirmed on Saturday evening that there will be no overnight declaration from the tourists, even though they are already more than 400 runs ahead in the first Test against South Africa at Kingsmead, so the Proteas will still have to get the last wicket before they begin their arduous effort to chase down a record score.
Australia finished the third day in Durban on 213 for nine, already a lead of 402, but even with bad light surely still playing a role, South Africa have a massive mountain to climb if they are to prevent the visitors from winning the first Test. The highest run-chase in a Kingsmead Test was the 340 for five South Africa, inspired by a Herschelle Gibbs century, scored against the same team in 2001/2.
“There are still two days left, there’s certainly lots of time still left in the game, so I’m pretty sure we’ll bat on, no declaration. I think the weather will stay pretty good, the forecast looks positive in the future, even though it gets a bit dark quite early. But we’re confident the weather will hold out as well,” Bancroft said, having set the Aussie second innings in motion with the top score of 53.
Proteas assistant coach Malibongwe Maketa was confident though that it is still a Kingsmead pitch that has no demons.
“The pitch has slowed up a bit, but there is turn, it is taking spin. But we don’t feel a lot of balls have really misbehaved, it’s still a good batting wicket. As always, we will have to take it hour-by-hour, look after the new ball and we know spin will come into play quite early, plus we have to get over the hurdle of the reversing ball as well,” Maketa said.
So no pressure then for a South African batting line-up that has been nowhere near their best recently.
Bancroft confirmed that Australia will definitely look to make use of the same weapons that left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc and right-arm off-spinner Nathan Lyon deployed so superbly in the first innings as South Africa were shot out for just 162. And the tourists expect the pitch to deteriorate further.
“Nathan is going to be massive for us, really important, because a lot of rough has started to develop outside the left-hander’s off-stump and with Mitchell bowling there’s rough outside the right-hander’s too. Nathan is a world-class bowler and hopefully we can get some reverse-swing going again too.
“It’s starting to reverse-swing a lot more, it started to go quite big about five overs before I got out and that makes it hard for the new batsman. There are quite a few bare patches now and the ball is reverse-swinging more and more, so it’s just getting more difficult to bat, especially for the new batsman,” Bancroft said.