JP Duminy stars as Proteas humble Oz

2008-12-28 00:00

The South African Proteas, for the second time in a week, produced the most weird and wonderful cricket to first defy and then humble the fumbling Australians and turn the second cricket Test in Melbourne on its head yesterday.

A week ago the South Africans, fired by AB de Villiers, chased down 414, the second highest victory target in the history of Test cricket, to win the series opener in Perth.

And yesterday rookie JP Duminy, in only his second Test, fashioned a composed, stylish 166 as the Proteas climbed from the most precarious of positions to end day three with their noses in front.

South Africa started the day trailing the Australian first innings of 394 by 196 runs and with Duminy batting with a shaky tail. But Duminy, with spirited support from Paul Harris (39) and Dale Steyn (76), lifted the total to 459, a first innings lead of 65.

The contest could still swing either way, but the South Africans have given themselves every chance of saving or even winning the Test.

Helped by the Australians’ distracted showing in the field, Duminy and Steyn added 180, the third-highest ninth-wicket stand in history, in nearly four hours.

Peter Roebuck, who is covering the series for The Witness, described the day as a “cricketing disaster for Australia”.

And Australian vice captain Michael Clarke agreed: “Definitely one of our most disappointing days for a long time in Test cricket. … It’s another example of how fast things can change in Test cricket.”

Clarke told journalists that Australia could still win the Test.

“We’ve got a big day tomorrow. We’re going to have to come out and bat really well and then we’ll wait and see what happens.”

But yesterday belonged to Duminy. Had Ashwell Prince not failed a fitness test, the 24-year-old would not have been playing and he still believes he will miss the third Test in Sydney if Prince is fit.

“Stranger things happen in life,” he told journalists. “Ashwell gets hit the day before the first Test … and fractured a finger and there I was in the Test. If Ashwell’s fit to play I’m sure he will play … I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”

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