Consolation win sparks glimmer of hope for Australia

Australia has avoided the ignominy of a first ever series whitewash on home soil with a convincing seven-wicket victory over South Africa in the third Test at the Adelaide Oval.

After dismissing South Africa for 250 in the first session of day four on Sunday (November 27), Australia chased down the 127-run target just before the dinner break with impressive debutant Matt Renshaw (34 not out from 137 balls) guiding his team to a consolation victory after humiliating losses in the opening two Tests with able support from David Warner and Steve Smith. Fellow debutant Peter Handscomb (1 not out) hit the winning run as Australia claimed their first Test victory since February breaking a run of five straight losses.

Warner (47 from 51 balls) initiated the successful chase with trademark explosiveness to ensure there would be no thrilling finish as he pounced on wayward deliveries from a flagging South African attack, who seemed to know they didn’t have anywhere near the runs on the board to realistically defend.

In contrast to his flamboyant partner, Renshaw had a more difficult time constantly playing and missing early in his innings but once again, like he did late on the opening day, the 20-year-old showcased a healthy dose of grit in an impressive start to his international career.

With the match essentially over, Warner was run-out after being overzealous for a quick single and two balls later, Tabraiz Shamsi trapped first innings hero Usman Khawaja (0) after a successful review. It left Australia 2 for 64, halfway to their target, but any apprehension was alleviated by composed batting from Renshaw and Smith (40), who combined for a third-wicket partnership of 61.

Starting the day at 6 for 194 with a lead of 70, South Africa’s chances of pulling off an outside victory were dashed after losing their final four wickets for 56 runs within the opening 75 minutes. Much of South Africa’s hopes rested on the overnight partnership between Stephen Cook and in-form wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock, and the explosive No.7 started impressively by smashing a boundary from Nathan Lyon’s first ball of the day. Lyon’s late heroics on day three flipped the match but de Kock seemed intent to once again take down Australia’s offspinner as his penchant all series.

But South Africa’s chances nosedived when de Kock (5) was dismissed lbw from Jackson Bird’s first ball of the day after a successful review from Smith, who initially seemed half-hearted but DRS confirmed the ball had pitched in line. The dismissal left South Africa delicately positioned at 7 for 201, with a lead of just 77 runs.

Vernon Philander (17) hung around for a while fuelling South Africa’s hopes until he was trapped plumb lbw from Starc’s first over with the new ball. Philander reviewed in desperation but replays confirmed Starc’s searing full delivery was cannoning into middle stump.

Despite the chaos at the other end, Cook continued his defiant knock to score a deserved second Test century to much applause from the sparse Adelaide Oval crowd, a much different reaction from the controversial booing which marred South African captain’s Faf du Plessis’s ton on the opening day.

It was the first time Cook had passed 50 for the series and he seemed likely to achieve a momentous feat for an opener by carrying his bat through the innings. However, Cook was the last to fall when he was bowled by a cracking inswinger from Starc to end his 240-ball 104. Testament to his stout defence and determination, Cook occupied three times more deliveries than any of his teammates – with Hashim Amla next best having faced 80 balls.

Perhaps having already won the series so convincingly, South Africa just seemingly couldn’t muster the necessary energy and motivation needed to ensure a whitewash. Still, they achieved their goal of winning a coveted third straight series in Australia, a feat not seen since the mighty West Indies circa 1984-93.

After going through a successful makeover, Australia can see a glimmer of hope for a successful new era now emerging.

Brief scores: South Africa 259/9 dec & 250 (Stephen Cook 104; Mitchell Starc 4-80) lost toAustralia 383 & 127/3 (David Warner 47, Steve Smith 40) by seven wickets.

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