Australia hold a 402-run lead in the first Test and intend on making South Africa’s bowlers sweat in the field for a fourth straight day in Durban.
Cameron Bancroft led the way as the tourists slowly but surely enhanced their advantage on Saturday, reaching 9-213 when bad light ended play.
A first-innings lead of 189 runs and Bancroft’s half-century mean the Proteas will have to produce something special to avoid going 1-0 down in the four-Test series.
The highest successful Test run-chase at Kingsmead is the 340 that South Africa reeled in against Australia in 2002, while the all-time record is West Indies’ 418 against Australia back in 2003.
Bancroft suggested Australia were unlikely to consider declaring any time soon.
“There is still two days to go and I think the thing they probably wouldn’t like the most is rocking up tomorrow and bowling,” Bancroft said.
“There is certainly plenty of time left in the game, so I’m pretty confident we’ll keep batting.”
There is a three-day break between the first and second Tests, presuming this clash runs to a fifth day, meaning the locals may already be worried about their fast bowlers’ workloads.
It wasn’t entirely smooth sailing for the tourists on Saturday, especially Usman Khawaja, but their refusal to collapse was in sharp contrast to recent years.
Khawaja’s spin struggles continued when he was out for six, attempting to reverse-sweep Keshav Maharaj.
Bancroft’s knock of 53 was also ended by left-arm spinner Maharaj, who has eight wickets for the match.
Nathan Lyon, who claimed three first-innings scalps and now sits sixth on the list of Australia’s all-time leading Test wicket-takers, will be licking his lips at the scoreboard and slow pitch.
“He’s going to be massive. Really, really important. There’s a lot of rough starting to develop outside the off stump for the left-hand batter,” Bancroft said.
“With Mitchell Starc in our team and the abrasiveness of the wicket, it’s going to create some rough patches outside the right-hand batters’ areas as well.
“Showing some discipline when we get that ball reverse-swinging is going to be really important too.”
Smith will also feel content with the state of play, once he moves on from being made to look decidedly mortal by part-time spinner Dean Elgar.
The world’s best batsman, fresh from a summer of Don Bradman comparisons, fell for 38 when he was trapped lbw by Elgar. The shocked skipper unsuccessfully referred the verdict.
Elgar later dislocated his finger taking a catch in the covers, but the hosts expect he will be fit for their second innings.
Bancroft, under pressure following a lean trot that had stretched back to the second Ashes Test, weathered a couple of painful blows inflicted by Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada.
Bancroft’s defence was on song but he also kept the scoreboard ticking over, passing 50 with his 10th boundary.
The opener was stumped when he skipped down the wicket, attempting to ruin Maharaj’s rhythm.
Meanwhile, Rabada may be in hot water after giving David Warner a send-off that attracted the umpires’ attention.
- Australia lead South Africa by 402 runs with 1 wicket remaining — Close of play