Australia found two breakthroughs to leave the Proteas on 100-2, trailing their opponents’ first-innings total by 24 runs.
If there was ever a time to step up and fight for your place in the team, that moment is now for Stephen Cook. After seeing Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla depart, Cook has battled on and finds himself on 43 not out, with JP Duminy by his side on five.
The tourists were left with the daunting task of going past Australia’s 124-run first-innings lead and then building up a competitive total – this after Usman Khawaja’s 145 and Mitchell Starc’s 53 got Australia to 383 all out. Their chances of doing so hangs by a thread.
They were dealt a blow in the very first over as Elgar departed for a duck after he forced a great catch out of Steve Smith in the slips. It was the 20th time that Starc had taken a wicket in the first over of an innings since January 2015. No other bowler has done that more than seven times.
Cook solidified with Amla from there and they built up a healthy 81-run stand. Amla was handed a reprieve on 15 as Matt Renshaw put down a sharp chance at first slip.
As he looked like he was hurtling towards a first half-century of the series, Josh Hazlewood accounted for him for the fifth time in the series as he nicked one to Matthew Wade. Hazlewood has well and truly had Amla’s number in this series, with Amla averaging just 4.80 against him.
Duminy then survived the last few overs of the session with Cook as the pair took their side to 100-2. A lot of work needs to be done just to catch up to Australia’s total before they can think about building up a lead.
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