SA vs AUS: Aussies follow-on fears washed away by Sydney rain

SA vs AUS, Because of the peculiar conditions offered by Sydney’s rain-soaked Test, Australia’s previous reluctance to force an opponent to follow on has been ditched. This is partly due to the effect the move has on fast bowlers needing to carry harsh back-to-back workloads. With 170 overs wasted to rain and poor light over the first four days of the third NRMA Insurance Test, it is doubtful that an outright result will be achieved as the match approaches tomorrow’s last day still in the first innings phase.

SA vs AUS, Sydney rain interrupted Aussies Plan

SA vs AUS Aussies follow-on fears washed away by Sydney rain-2

However, the combination of an uncertain SCG surface and the lack of any more red-ball events on Australia’s itinerary until the start of their four-Test Qantas tour of India next month has made enforcing the follow-on a ‘no-brainer’ decision if the chance presents itself. South Africa began the final day at 6-149, 326 runs behind Australia’s 4d-475 and 127 runs short of the total that would force their hosts to bat a second time, substantially slowing their ambitious bid for victory.

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Because so much time has been wasted over the first four days of this rain-soaked match, Australia’s bowlers are fresh – they have bowled only 59 overs between five of them – and tomorrow’s plan calls for a minimum of 98 overs over an extended day. As a result, fast bowler Josh Hazlewood acknowledged that the follow-on – which Australia has used just seven times in over 220 Tests over the last 20 years – was being considered the only option by which an outright victory might be gained as early as the conclusion of day three.

SA vs AUS Aussies follow-on fears washed away by Sydney rain-3

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That was before another three hours were lost to rain and a soggy infield today when Australia captain Pat Cummins abandoned intentions to bat for another half hour this morning and instead chose to take the ball as soon as the play was feasible early in the afternoon. “We certainly would have batted if we had the whole day’s play,” Hazlewood said after taking two important wickets with fellow fast Cummins today (3-29). We definitely would have attempted to grab another 60, or 70 runs maybe simply to push that follow-on out.

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“If they make the follow-on and you have to bat again, it takes time out of the game so you’re better off storing it fast off seven or eight overs (this morning) and then go out and bowl. But we didn’t get on there until after lunch, so we had to go right out there. I don’t believe there many alternatives (to enforce the follow-on) tomorrow.

SA vs AUS Aussies follow-on fears washed away by Sydney rain-4

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I guess we’ll be out there all day anyway.” Hazlewood also claimed that the battery of Test-standard quicks Australia has assembled in recent years, with the likes of Scott Boland, Michael Neser, and Jhye Richardson all earning Baggy Green Caps, means that pushing fast bowlers to their limits may become more prevalent. Normally, the prospect of pacemen needing to send down a slew of overs and then immediately turn around and repeat the dosage by following on an opponent has been considered skeptically as a recipe for workload-related ailments.

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However, as Australia has demonstrated over the last two summers when Hazlewood and his regular new-ball partner Mitchell Starc were forced to miss games due to injury, or when Cummins was sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols, there is ready-made backup capable of more than adequately filling the void. I believe there are enough quicks now to probably go into any game with that attitude,” Hazelwood said when asked whether the idea of a three-week break in the Test calendar after this game makes a follow-on more enticing.

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You’re there in that XI to win that Test match, and whatever it takes to win it then see how everyone’s pulled up regardless. I suppose in the back of your mind a little bit we’ve got three weeks off, so we can kind of burn ourselves tomorrow. And if speed is more important than spin, we’ll have to stretch it (workloads) out a little farther. Despite Hazlewood and Cummins doing the most of the damage on South Africa’s frail top-order batting today, the seamer feels spin duo Nathan Lyon and Ashton Agar will be the trump cards in tomorrow’s bid for an unexpected outright triumph.

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Among the 25 overs he bowled today, Lyon grabbed the wicket of opener Sarel Erwee and threatened multiple times by extracting sharp spin and diverse bounce off a track that began the play deceptively dry but has since been exposed to relentless rain and thick covers. The Republic of South Africa Australia’s fast bowlers, according to Khaya Zondo, was most difficult to counter when they pitched the ball short, owing to the slow nature of the dry pitch, which made it difficult to gauge how much it would bounce and whether it was safe to duck beneath deliveries that would normally soar above head height.

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It’s not fast, and it turns sometimes, but it’s playable,” Zondo remarked this evening. From a seamer standpoint, the shorter balls aren’t going up. When it’s short you’ve got to monitor it because sometimes you anticipate it to come up at speed but it doesn’t leap because of the pitch. That’s the one thing you have to keep an eye out for. It’s almost as if you have to play the shorter ball rather than attempting to go beneath it.”

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The greatest concern, according to Hazlewood, will be Australia’s right-arm, a  left-arm mix of finger spinners, which will guarantee they have someone capable of turning the ball towards opposing batters regardless of who is at the crease. The wicket looked fairly great with Gazza (Lyon) bowling into that rough after a little of traffic down it from both ends,” Hazlewood added. So I believe Ash and Gazza, a huge day for them tomorrow perhaps more so with the ball spinning in with a lot of lefties and righties for both of them to deal with.

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That will be our emphasis, followed by some up-and-down with the reverse-swinging ball for the quicks. Despite the amount of time wasted due to bad weather and the fact that Australia didn’t bowl their first ball of the Test until after midday on day four, the peculiar algorithms that compute outcome probability give the home side an 85% chance of winning. That same computing tool offered South Africa a 0% chance of winning, which is unsurprising, but only a 15% chance of hanging out for a draw by not losing 14 wickets on the last day.

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When asked whether there was confidence in the visiting team’s dressing that, after such a dreadful trip in which they were thoroughly beaten in both Brisbane and Melbourne, they might avoid a 0-3 clean sweep, Zondo just grinned.



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