The Proteas batted for just three more overs after lunch to hand Australia 539 for victory.
Faf du Plessis finally gave in to the commentators’ constant pleas for the Proteas to declare, giving the hosts just under five sessions to try and survive the first Test at the Waca.
Du Plessis, knowing that the wicket is still decent to bat on and knowing that he’s only got two fast bowlers at his disposal following the injury to Dale Steyn, decided to leave his batsmen out there for a little while longer.
Keshav Maharaj and Vernon Philander made full use of the few overs given to them after lunch, with no less than four sixes being smacked off Nathan Lyon. Maharaj remained unbeaten on 41 off 34, but it was the wicket of Philander which prompted the declaration, as Steve Smith brought himself into the attack and bowled him for an excellent 73.
It was the complete batting performance from the tourists, as Quinton de Kock (64) and Philander pushed on in the morning session on day four, this after a mammoth 250-run stand between JP Duminy (141) and Dean Elgar (127).
Australia will have to do something nothing short of sensational if they want to pull this off, with the previous highest successful chase in Test history being West Indies’ 418-7 against Australia in 2003.
What they might draw on more for inspiration was South Africa’s resilience in Adelaide in 2012, which saw the Proteas see out 148 overs, a similar amount that the Australians will need to face now, to finish on 248-8 and draw the Test. The irony of that, is that James Pattinson was injured in the first innings, meaning Ricky Ponting had limited options to work with.
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