Top cricbuzz prediction: SA felt safe as Harmer and Maharaj defied Australia’s gate search

Lunch South Africa 244 for 7 (Maharaj 49*, Harmer 45*, Cummins 3-53, Hazlewood 2-45) trail Australia 475 for 4 dec by 231 runs

The pair have put on an unbroken 72 for the eighth wicket, leaving SA needing 32 to avoid the follow-on

Simon Harmer and Keshav Maharaj combined for an outstanding partnership as South Africa mustered belated fight on day five to thwart Australia’s push for an improbable third Test victory at a sunny SCG.

At lunch, South Africa needed 32 runs to avoid the follow-on target with Maharaj and Harmer nearing half-centuries, their partnership an unbroken 72 for the eighth wicket. A minimum of 58 overs are left, but a draw is increasingly looking likely even though there is only a small chance of rain forecast in Sydney for the rest of the day.

Amid blue skies and warm conditions, the pitch has played well and not deteriorated as expected after Australia quicks Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood conjured inconsistent bounce late on day four.

Part-time spinner Travis Head was the most dangerous bowler in the first session of day five, and claimed its only wicket by removing Marco Jansen for 11 off 78 balls. However, Australia had been greatly frustrated with their attempt to win the series to secure a place in the Test World Cup final in June.

South Africa, who are not good at batting, struggled against Australia’s fierce attack. They hadn’t drawn a Test in their last 43 games since 2017.

South Africa got off to a shaky start, 6 for 149, after Cummins and Hazelwood bowled brilliantly in the fading light late in his fourth day.

However, Jansen and Hamer attacked cautiously to go against Cummins and Spinner Nathan Lyon with a stone wall. Hamer scored the game’s opening run of the day in his 20th delivery and pushed Cummins to the limit shortly thereafter.

Jansen scored only on his 32nd pitch of the day, emphasizing his determination to play as a rear guard. He occasionally nudged Lyon nervously when the inside edge fell onto his pad just before Stephen Smith slipped.

Lyon, who had a modest record in the SCG, started from the start, aiming for the footprints outside the stump. He initially struggled with accuracy before finding radar, but he was unable to find a breakthrough.

Just before the second new ball, Cummins turned to head. Head justified his conviction by getting Jansen out by keeping the outside of the stump low. Head continued testing but missed opportunities, including a sharp rebound that allowed Maharajji.

Cummins took his second new ball without hesitation and Hazelwood immediately called up a nasty jump, much like he had done the night before.

But South Africa’s desperate attempt to overtake another goal also saw a run. Maharaj countered Cummins with several aggressive pull shots.

After sparse use in his first Test match since 2017, spinner Ashton Agar launched an attack an hour later in the day.But he can do little to threaten Australia’s front-line spinner was. Showing belated determination and defiance, South Africa are poised to end their disastrous series defeat in a positive way.

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