Wayne Parnell returned to test cricket after four years with two wickets in his first three balls as South Africa forced life out of a previously placid pitch to have Australia 112-4 and 311 behind on a day the home team hopes is series-swinging on Friday.
Trailing 1-0, top-ranked South Africa found prolonged momentum for the first time in the series on the second day of the second test at St. George’s Park, first when AB de Villiers and JP Duminy made centuries and shared a 149-run stand to take the Proteas to 423 in its first innings.
And then when Parnell and Vernon Philander got a little sideways movement and bounce out of the sluggish surface to snatch four Australian wickets in 25 overs at the end of the day.
It could have been six, but opener David Warner was still there on a rapid 65 after being dropped by wicketkeeper De Villiers, and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon avoided a review that would have shown he was out and another dropped catch by Duminy diving in the gully in a breathless final two hours.
“It could have been (worse) if they took a couple of chances,’’ Australia coach Darren Lehmann said. “They bowled very well, give them credit there.’’
Parnell had 2-19 at his home ground and Philander 2-26. Philander removed opener Chris Rogers early lbw and Parnell’s life off the pitch got rid of Alex Doolan for 8 and Shaun Marsh for a duck in his first three deliveries in his first test since 2010 and first on his ground.
Captain Michael Clarke reflected Australia’s gung-ho approach to the start of its first innings with 16 of his 19 runs coming from boundaries, but he mistimed another attacking shot to Philander and was caught in the covers for 81-4, leaving Lyon to battle through the last eight overs.
With Warner racing past 50, after being dropped by De Villiers on 43, and Lyon hanging on grimly, South Africa missed the chance to inflict serious damage. “We let ourselves down in the end there with two dropped catches,’’ Duminy said. “Hopefully we’ll catch them tomorrow.’’
De Villiers made 116 for his 12th score of 50 or better in his last 12 tests, six of them centuries. Duminy top-scored with 123 after being under pressure for his place in the team as South Africa preferred to grind its way to a big first-innings score rather than race away like the Australians.
Australia’s left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson, South Africa’s destroyer in the first test, finished with 1-70 as the Aussie quicks struggled through the two days continued…