Bancroft starts to fire as Aussies push
CAMERON Bancroft got the monkey off his back last night with a much-needed half century in Durban and will now go into the second Test with renewed belief.
Under the pump after a run of low scores, Bancroft responded in strong fashion and carved out his first 50 since making his Test debut against England at the Gabba way back in November.
Selectors had thrown their support behind Bancroft at the start of the series and more than anything else, the 25year-old may have proved to himself that he has the game to survive in Test cricket. Known for his insatiable work ethic, Bancroft has been willing himself to find a way out of the rut that had engulfed him by the back end of the Ashes, and now he has found some light at the end of the tunnel.
Bancroft had a big shot at a maiden Test hundred, but was stumped by South African spinner Keshav Maharaj for 53 in the over before lunch.
But even at 5-158 during the second session on day three, Australia were pushing their lead past the 350-mark and were on the verge of effectively driving South Africa out of the contest.
Despite Australia’s sheer dominance, Usman Khawa- ja’s struggles away from home continued. Khawaja departed in soft fashion to spinner Keshav Maharaj, who was later mystified that he didn’t get Australian captain Steve Smith out lbw.
Smith was given the benefit of the doubt by the umpire and ended up escaping with umpire’s call, but he had no such luck a short time later when he fell to part-time spinner Dean Elgar for 38.
Bancroft can now head into the second Test in Port Elizabeth starting later this week not carrying the same baggage that had been weighing him down to start this series. The West Australian rarely seemed troubled at the crease until his dismissal, and helped steady the ship following the back-to-back departures of David Warner and Khawaja.
Former Test player and respected commentator Brendon Julian was critical of Khawaja’s meek dismissal also to Maharaj, where the Australian No.3 attempted a reverse sweep to the spinner only to spoon one up off his glove.
Khawaja’s record overseas has been a source of ongoing concern for Australia and he averages just 26 from 12 Test matches playing away from home. In contrast, Khawaja has a 59 average on Australian pitches.
Julian said Khawaja still has it all to prove when the ball turns. He believes Khawaja’s mindset at the crease is completely thrown off its kilter when confronted with spin bowling.
“It feels like (he thinks) he’s got to be aggressive, and attacking,” Julian said in commentary on Radio SEN. “It just looks all over for him when spin comes on. He panics and does not look settled. He’s got to find a way to get out there and play positively with defence.
“It’s a real concern as a No.3 batsman. Sure (Australia) have got a lead of 260 but for him personally he’s got to find a way to find more decisive against spin bowling.”
Australian opener Cameron Bancroft on his way to a half-century. Picture: AFP