‘Gutless’ ploy ‘an insult to public’
AN excruciating day of Test cricket met Australia on day four as South Africa rubbed salt deep into the tourists' wounds.
New skipper Tim Paine was lost for ideas as the home side crawled through to a 611 lead before sending the Aussies in to tackle the impossible run chase.
Pat Cummins was Australia's sharpest bowler, taking a career-best nine wickets for the match, including a solid 4-58 from his 18 overs in the second innings on day four.
Here were the major talking points from the day's play.
FURY AT SOUTH AFRICA'S 'DEADSET STITCH-UP'
Despite all but having the Test match in their hands before a ball was bowled on day four, South Africa bizarrely decided to whittle down Australia's attack to breaking point for two entire sessions as their lead climbed to over 600 runs.
The Proteas didn't look at all in a hurry on their way through the second innings. In form opener Dean Elgar was particularly patient, hitting 81 from a whopping 250 balls and 337 minutes at the crease.
The general understanding was skipper Faf du Plessis would declare at lunch and after he made his century, which is why viewers were left gobsmacked as South Africa continued after he fell for 120 with their tailenders beginning to arrive at the crease to smack the bowlers around.
This is now getting beyond ridiculous from a gutless South Africa. The Australians now trail by 600 - more than the combined total of their last three innings. #SAvAUS— Taylor Auerbach (@tauerbach) April 2, 2018
Commentator and former Aussie leg-spinner Shane Warne was shaking his head at the move, claiming du Plessis' refusal to declare was a "bad advertisement for the game".
Veteran cricket writer Peter Lalor accused the home side of insulting the dwindling day four crowd.
Not sure what South Africa are doing out there, just blocking & boring everyone, they’re 158/3 off 65 overs & 425 ahead. We want Test Match cricket to survive & be exciting, this is not a good advertisement for the game. Get on with it & declare !!— Shane Warne (@ShaneWarne) April 2, 2018
Warne later claimed the home side was indifferent to the result of the match.
"I don't think South Africa care if they win this Test match," he said. "If they wanted to, they would have declared a long time ago. It will be a disappointing way to finish the game."
South Africa now lead by 460.— Peter Lalor (@plalor) April 2, 2018
This is a dead-set stitch up.
Elgar didn’t score for over 70 balls.
An insult to paying public.
Someone should check dismal Dean’s pulse.
South Africa eventually declared at 6/344, setting the Aussies a whopping 612 runs to win.
CUMMINS EQUALS JOHNSON'S RECORD
Pat Cummins wrapped up his series with the ball with a four-wicket haul in the second innings as the rest of Australia's attack struggled through two gruelling sessions on day four.
The Aussie seamer grew into his own during the South Africa series, scoring his first Test fifty at the Wanderers in the first innings and wrapping up the fourth Test with nine wickets, his best match haul in his career.
The 24-year-old's series tally finished at 22, equalling Mitchell Johnson's record for an Australian against South Africa in a post-apartheid series.
WARNE: 'I CAN'T FATHOM IT'
A polarising declaration wasn't the only thing Shane Warne was ripping into Faf du Plessis about on day four.
With a target of 612 and two wickets down, saving runs was the least of South Africa's worries to stem the struggling tourists' run rate. It was safe to say Australia's chance at victory was eviscerated as the final hour of the day dawned.
A moment in the field after Usman Khawaja was dismissed LBW caught the famed leg-spinner's eye.
"There a things happening on the field I cannot fathom," Warne said. "Why do they have a deep point?"
Mark Nicholas replied saying that cutting off a boundary here and there could frustrate a batsman into making an error.
HUMILIATING HISTORY LOOMS
The fight Australia showed in the opening session of day three only served to remind cricket fans of a glaring flaw that has marred this series from the opening Test.
Tim Paine (62) and Pat Cummins (50) combined for a 99-run seventh wicket stand as the fast bowler scored his maiden Test half century and the new captain batted on bravely with a broken thumb. It represented the tourists' highest partnership of the series, underlining how their failings with the bat have seen them cave to a 2-1 deficit, likely to be 3-1 after this Test.
Suspended for the final match in the series, Cameron Bancroft was Australia's leading runscorer with 223 runs at an average of 37.2. It's a solid output from someone on his first Test tour, but if those are the best numbers being dished up you know the batsmen are underperforming.
Bancroft is the only Aussie among the series' top five run getters.
Darren Lehmann's men just haven't been able to cope with Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada as the South African spearheads have impressed with old and new ball to mastermind Australia's demise.
No Australian has scored a century so far in South Africa and if that trend continues in the second innings in Johannesburg, it will be the first time in 48 years an Aussie batsman has failed to reach three figures in a series four or more matches long.