Cape Town - Temba Bavuma set the ball rolling with the sensational run out of danger man David Warner before Kagiso Rabada made a double strike in a superb second spell (8-1-16-2) to put the Proteas in an all-powerful position to push for victory on the final day of the first Test match against Australia at the WACA.
Australia, set a massive target of 539 in a minimum of 145 overs, finished day four on Sunday on 169/4 with both the most senior batsmen, Warner and Steve Smith, back in the pavilion. Theoretically Australia need a further 370 for victory with six wickets in hand but in reality all they can do is play for survival with the Proteas only one wicket away from breaking into the Australian lower middle-order.
Australia would have had a minute chance of chasing the target and breaking the world record by 121 runs if Warner could have played one of the great innings in the history of the game and there was always some sort of chance while he was at the crease.
Warner was going well with 35 at quicker than a run a ball when he pushed in front of point and set off for a single only to be caught short by the lightning reaction of Bavuma who threw down the stumps at the bowler’s wicket to catch Warner a fraction short. The ball before he had nicked Rabada just out of the reach of third slip Dean Elgar.
Rabada’s performance was equally sensational. He finished the day with 3/49 in 16 overs and could have had a fourth but for a chance offered by Usman Khawaja that went astray in the slips.
The way that Rabada has taken over the injured Dale Steyn’s mantle in this innings has been yet another indicator of this man’s incredible maturity for a 21-year-old.
If Rabada has given his career another massive stride forward both literally and figuratively the Proteas will draw equal encouragement from the form of Vernon Philander who is returning to his status of being one of the better all-rounders in Test cricket. The four wickets he took in the first innings were pivotal in first getting the Proteas back in the game and then taking it away from his hosts.
And his current level of confidence was reflected by his second innings with the bat when he finished on 73 (143 balls, 10 fours and 2 sixes), one shy of his career best before getting out on the slog after he and another new found hero, Keshav Maharaj (41 not out off 34 balls, 2 fours and 3 sixes), had a final hallelujah just before the declaration.
Quinton de Kock had previously contributed yet another half-century as he and Philander closed out any chance of Australia having a target of less than 450.
Maharaj bowled 17 very tidy overs thereafter and he has clearly come to stay at this level.
JP Duminy has so far only been required to bowl 8 overs such has been the whole-hearted effort of the three front-liners.
Smith and Khawaja kept the Proteas at bay for a while with the third wicket stand of 92 before Rabada struck twice in the space of 9 balls.
Now Khawaja (58 not out off 120 balls, 6 fours and 2 sixes) and Mitchell Marsh stand between the Proteas and the breakthrough into the lower order.