Wayne Parnell took two wickets in his first three balls in test cricket in four years to have Australia struggling at 112—4 in response to South Africa’s 423 on Friday.
Playing his fourth test and first on his home ground, Parnell had Alex Doolan caught by wicketkeeper AB de Villiers with his first delivery and Shaun Marsh caught by De Villiers with his third to start a breathless final part of the second day of the second test.
That suddenly swung the match in South Africa’s favor after it made 423 on a St. George’s Park pitch that appeared to offer nothing for fast bowlers.
Parnell and Vernon Philander suggested otherwise, with Philander also removing Chris Rogers early and Australia captain Michael Clarke for 19 just before the close. David Warner was 65 not out and survived a dropped catch, as did nightwatchman Nathan Lyon as edges flew at the end of the day.
Australia was ultimately 311 runs behind with six wickets in hand at stumps and under pressure for the first time since the first session of the series at Centurion.
Lyon was sent in to see out the final few overs after Clarke mistimed a drive straight to the covers, and the spin bowler was subjected to a testing short—ball burst by Morne Morkel, the kind that Australia and left—arm quick Mitchell Johnson unleashed to dominate top—ranked South Africa in the first test.
At St. George’s Park, though, Johnson appeared to be bowling on a different pitch for the best part of two days as he and the rest of the tourists’ pace attack struggled to extract any pace, bounce or menace from an apparently slow and placid surface.
JP Duminy and De Villiers made centuries for the South Africans, and offspinner Lyon did much of the work for the Australians with his 5—130 after bowling 46 of their 150.5 overs. Johnson and the seamers didn’t take a wicket in more than 140 overs after their early two strikes on the first day, and he finished with 1—70 in the first innings.
Amid the South African quicks’ early breakthroughs in the late afternoon, opener Warner raced to his half—century off just 55 balls and hit 10 fours by the close as the top order failed around him. Lyon, hanging on grimly and bravely, was 12 not out, but they both came through close shaves.
On 43, Warner edged a rising ball from Morkel high to De Villiers and the keeper fumbled it. Lyon edged down the legside to De Villiers at 107—4 and was given not out. The South Africans didn’t review the decision, which showed a mark on Lyon’s bat. He then edged Morkel to Duminy at gully right at the end and another chance went down.