Port Elizabeth: Australian captain Michael Clarke paid tribute to a great spell of fast reverse swing bowling by South Africa’s Dale Steyn after his team’s capitulation on the fourth day of the second Test at St George’s Park on Sunday.
South Africa bowled out Australia for 216 to win by 231 runs, setting up a series decider in the third and final Test in Cape Town, starting on Saturday.
Australia lost nine wickets after tea, with Steyn claiming four of the wickets, including that of Clarke for one.
“We were outplayed with both bat and ball,” Clarke admitted.
He said the key was the fast reverse swing bowling of all three South African pacemen but he singled out Steyn for special praise.
“You’ve seen a class bowler bowling consistently at 140-145ks [kilometres per hour], executing his skills as well as you will see in international cricket.”
In contrast, the Australian bowlers were unable to get any reverse swing, he acknowledged.
Set 448 to win, Australia seemed to be cruising at 141 for one at tea after Chris Rogers and David Warner had put on 126 for the first wicket, scoring at more than four runs an over.
Once the wickets started to fall, Rogers fought a lone battle before being ninth man out, run out for 107.
“We knew the best time to bat in the second innings was against the new ball,” said Clarke.
“We knew the hardest period was going to be once the ball got old and batsmen had to start their innings against reverse swing.”
Part-time off-spinner JP Duminy made the breakthrough when he trapped Warner leg before wicket for a sparkling 66, made off 73 balls.
South Africa took four top order wickets for four runs after tea to swing the game in their favour, with Alex Doolan, Shaun Marsh, Clarke and Steve Smith falling for 5, 0, 1 and 0 respectively.
Marsh was out first ball to Vernon Philander to complete a “pair”.
Ten runs later, Steyn’s fast reverse swing sent Brad Haddin’s middle stump flying. Mitchell Johnson stayed long enough to see Rogers to his century but became a fourth lbw victim.
Rogers, who scored only ten runs in his first three innings of the series, looked in good touch from the start of his innings, taking advantage of some over-pitched deliveries early on and almost keeping pace with Warner during what was easily the most productive opening partnership by either side during the series.
With Australia seven down, South Africa claimed the extra half hour available if a result was likely and took the last three wickets with a possible 14 balls remaining.
South Africa were without injured left-arm fast-medium bowler Wayne Parnell but Smith juggled his bowlers well and made good use of his part-time spinners.