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1st Test: Bad light frustrates Australia on brink of victory against South Africa

Australia reduced South Africa to 293/9 in their second innings, one wicket from ending the game, when the bad lights stopped play.

AP Reported by: AP Durban Published on: March 04, 2018 23:05 IST
Mitchell Starc, Australia
Image Source : GETTY IMAGES Mitchell Starc of Australia celebrates the wicket of Kagiso Rabada

​Australia were frustrated by bad light and will have to come back to Kingsmead on the final day of the first Test against South Africa to confirm what should be a series-opening victory. Mitchell Starc tore through South Africa's lower order at the end of the fourth day on Sunday, and was denied the chance of a hat trick in strange circumstances right at the end. 

Australia reduced South Africa to 293/9 in their second innings, one wicket from ending the game, when the umpires took the players off because the light wasn't good enough to play.

Starc finished with 4/74 and nine wickets in the match after removing three batsmen in an over late in the day. He was on a hat trick when he removed Vernon Philander on the second delivery of his over and then sent the ball crashing into the stumps of Keshav Maharaj and Kagiso Rabada off the fifth and sixth deliveries.

But umpires Kumar Dharmasena and Sundaram Ravi ruled the light wasn't good enough for the quicks to bowl after that and Starc had to watch as spinners Nathan Lyon and Steve Smith bowled the last nine overs of the day.

The call on the light also meant Starc couldn't push for his 10th wicket of the match after his 5/34 in the first innings set up Australia. He could now get his hat trick and the 10th when the teams return on Monday.

Australia's push for victory was also held up by South Africa opener Aiden Markram, who gritted it out for five and a half hours for his 143. Markram batted for almost the entire day, falling late on to a catch up at the stumps by wicketkeeper Tim Paine off Mitchell Marsh.

The breakthrough ended Markram's 147-run partnership with Quinton de Kock for the sixth wicket and set up the final surge from Starc.

Australia were in position for a big victory most of the day after South Africa's top order fell apart under pressure in the first session, epitomised by the chaotic run out of AB de Villiers for a duck.

Australia's quick bowlers sliced through with three other wickets in the 22 overs they delivered before lunch. Josh Hazelwood then broke an 87-run partnership between Markram and Theunis de Bruyn in the afternoon.

South Africa needed to make 417, their highest-ever fourth innings score at Kingsmead in Durban, to win or bat for two days to save a draw. Both appeared highly unlikely.

At the start of the day, Starc removed Dean Elgar (9) caught behind with a fizzing short ball, Hazelwood had Hashim Amla out lbw for 8, and Pat Cummins ripped out captain Faf du Plessis' off stump to put Australia well on course for victory.

David Warner set up the run out of de Villiers, who was South Africa's best batsman in the first innings but who only faced one delivery before he was dismissed on Sunday to wild celebrations by the Australian fielders.

De Villiers thought about a quick single with Markram on strike, but was sent back as Warner swooped from backward square leg to run de Villiers out at the non-striker's end with the help of bowler Nathan Lyon.

De Villiers was short of his crease, and left sprawled on the ground. The run out provoked a loud, taunting celebration from Warner and the Aussies, who are well on top at the start of a series billed as a battle between two closely matched teams. In reality, Australia have been clearly superior in the first four days of the contest, starting when they made 351 in their first innings and rolled South Africa out for 162 for a 189-run first-innings lead.

Markram hit 19 fours before falling late. He found support first from de Bruyn, who made 36 and visibly irritated Starc during one spell, prompting a series of verbal exchanges between the two.

Australia arrived in South Africa off a 4-0 Ashes rout of England and are also boosted by a strong record in this country. Australia have not lost a series in South Africa since the end of apartheid, winning five and drawing two.

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