Rabada in­spires South Africa to ‘360 de­grees’ turn­around win

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South Africa 242 (de Kock 84, Bavuma 51, Starc 4-71, Ha­zle­wood 3-70) and 8 for 540 dec (Duminy

141, Elgar 127, Phi­lan­der 73, de Kock 64) beat Aus­tralia 244 (Warner 97, S Marsh 63, Phi­lan­der 4-56, Ma­haraj 3-56) and 361 (Khawaja 97, Nevill

60*, Rabada 5-92) by 177 runs PERTH — Skip­per Faf du Plessis hailed one of the best wins of his ca­reer after Kag­iso Rabada’s five-wicket haul led South Africa to a re­mark­able turn­around vic­tory in the first Test against Aus­tralia yes­ter­day.

Set a mam­moth vic­tory tar­get of 539, the home side’s sec­ond in­nings ended on 361 on the fi­nal day, hand­ing the vis­i­tors vic­tory by 177 runs and main­tain­ing their un­beaten record in four Tests at Perth’s WACA Ground.

The vic­tory looked un­think­able when Aus­tralia were 158 for none early on day two in re­ply to South Africa’s 242, and es­pe­cially when the vis­i­tors lost strike bowler Dale Steyn to a shoul­der in­jury.

Debu­tant spin­ner Ke­shav Ma­haraj (1-94) de­liv­ered the fi­nal blow, trap­ping num­ber 11 Nathan Lyon lbw for eight, the de­ci­sion up­held de­spite an Aus­tralia re­view and leav­ing Peter Nevill un­beaten on 60.

It was Aus­tralia’s fourth suc­ces­sive Test de­feat, after be­ing beaten in all three Tests on their July-Au­gust tour of Sri Lanka, and the first time they had lost the open­ing Test of their home sea­son since 1988.

“That’s one of the most spe­cial days, to turn it around 360 de­grees from day one where we were un­der the pump,” du Plessis said of day two.

“We were a seamer down pretty much the (whole) Test match and we al­ways joke that if you are a seamer down in a three-seamer at­tack, it is 99 per­cent im­pos­si­ble.

“Some­how we man­aged to do it and much of the credit goes to this man (Rabada) and also Ke­shav (Ma­haraj).

“That is right up there with the best match in my Test ca­reer.”

Aus­tralian captain Steven Smith lamented the way his side failed to cap­i­talise on its early dom­i­nance.

“The most dis­ap­point­ing thing from my as­pect was we were in a po­si­tion to be able to drive the game,” he said.

“We had an­other big col­lapse and we weren’t able to cap­i­talise on what the open­ers did to put us in a great po­si­tion. “Ev­ery as­pect of our game needs im­prov­ing.” Re­sum­ing at 169 for four, a draw was Aus­tralia’s only hope and it ap­peared a for­lorn task, with manof-the-match Rabada en­sur­ing that was the case with 5-92.

With star pace­man Steyn suf­fer­ing a shoul­der in­jury that will side­line him for at least six months, Rabada stepped up in fine style to lead the South African at­tack.

The 21-year-old claimed three wick­ets on day four and two more yes­ter­day to record his fourth fivewicket haul in just nine Tests, a record for a South African player of his age.

The rot set in early for Aus­tralia on the fi­nal day, when a sear­ing Rabada yorker hit Mitchell Marsh on the pad on 26, although he was given not out by um­pire Aleem Dar.

The South Africans re­viewed the de­ci­sion and were suc­cess­ful, end­ing a 50-run stand be­tween Marsh and Us­man Khawaja and strik­ing the first blow of the day.

Rabada then grabbed his fifth wicket when he trapped Mitchell Starc lbw with an­other fast yorker for 13.

Rabada is shap­ing as a per­fect long-term re­place­ment for Steyn, hav­ing also claimed the wick­ets of Shaun Marsh (15), Smith (34) and Adam Vo­ges (1) on the fourth day.

JP Duminy capped his fine match, hav­ing made a cen­tury in South Africa’s sec­ond in­nings, by claim­ing the wicket of Khawaja with his part-time spin, lbw for 97.

Diminu­tive bats­man Temba Bavuma, who pro­duced one of the great run-outs on the fourth day to dis­miss David Warner, was brought on to bowl and al­most struck with his first ball in Test cricket.

It skid­ded through and struck Khawaja right in front of the stumps, but Bavuma had over­stepped and it was a no-ball, deny­ing him the hon­our of be­com­ing just the 21st bowler to claim a wicket with his first ball in Test cricket.

How­ever, Bavuma had his mo­ment later in the in­nings, break­ing an ob­du­rate 65-run wicket ninth­wicket stand by hav­ing Josh Ha­zle­wood caught off a lead­ing edge for 29.

South Africa had de­clared their sec­ond in­nings on 540 for 8 after lunch on the fourth day to set Aus­tralia a record run chase. — AFP

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