Australia on the Brink of Heavy Defeat
Only a last day rear guard action can save Australia from a heavy defeat in Perth with the hosts struggling at 4/153 in chase of an improbable 538 they were set for victory. Australia have not lost the opening Test of a home summer since 1988, however will require a 6-hour stonewall from their middle and lower order here in order to stave off defeat. Maybe they can draw inspiration from Faf Du Plessis batting the whole of Day 5 back in Adelaide four years ago when South Africa entered Day 5 in a similar position 4 wickets down and with a draw their best result possible. Day 4 was dominated by the tourists once again and much will depend on Usman Khawaja and under pressure pair Mitchell Marsh and Peter Neville if Australia are to secure a back to the wall draw against the odds on a wicket starting to play some tricks. Kagiso Rabada was the best of the South African bowlers taking 3/49, with the tourists other wicket coming courtesy of a remarkable bit of fielding from Tebendo Bavuma to dismiss David Warner. Warner looked in total command and the highly skilled bit of improvisation from Buvama sprung the tourists back to life as they took wickets at regular intervals. Earlier in the day Quinton De Kock and Vernon Philander piled on the pain for the hosts with half centuries of their own. Whilst many in the commentary box were critical of Du Plessis' decision to bat on for a lead well over 500, he was well aware he was a bowler down and wanted to grind Australia further into the dirt on Day 4.
Rabada Delivers on Day 4
With spearhead fast bowler Dale Steyn out for 6 months with a shoulder injury, South Africa might have just found a more than willing replacement to lead their attack for the next decade. With 416 wickets at an average of 22, Steyn has been the premier fast bowler in the world for much of the last decade. Steyn, at 33 years of age and with injuries mounting, may not ever return to the dominant force he once was. However South Africa might have found gold with the emergence of Kagiso Rabada gathering momentum here on Day 4. Rabada was exceptional claiming the key wickets of Shaun Marsh, Steve Smith and Adam Voges on his way to taking 3/49 from 16 overs. Rabada was unlucky not to have a 4th wicket when Khawaja edged behind only to see Quinton De Kock and Hashim Amla in two minds as Amla grassed the low chance. Rabada bowled with good pace, and had excellent control of reverse swing as he enticed Marsh, Smith and Voges into edges on a probing 4th stump line. At just 21 years of age, Rabada has untapped potential and, if he can finish with 5 wickets in leading South Africa to a 1st Test win, his stocks will only grow higher.
Steve Smith and Nathan Lyon Relationship Under the Microscope
Nathan Lyon returned the worst figures of his Test career on Day 4 going wicketless and conceding 146 runs from 34 overs of toil. It was notable that Smith gave Lyon just 12 overs on Day 3 and refused to turn to his spinner until after the lunch break despite the searingly hot temperatures and growing partnership between Dean Elgar and JP Duminy. On the recent tour of Sri Lanka, both Smith and coach Darren Lehmann were highly critical of Lyon in the press blaming Australia's spinner as much as the batsmen for the series defeat. Whilst Lyon returned 16 wickets at 31 on the tour, Smith felt Lyon should have been more consistent and taken wickets at a better strike rate much like his Sri Lankan counterparts. It seemed an unnecessary shot against Lyon when the batsmen had failed miserably to build any sort of total all tour long. Whilst Michael Clarke seemed to deploy Lyon early and often, it's up for discussion whether Smith has lost some faith in the bowler. Lyon with 211 wickets is Australia's most successful off spinning bowler in its history and has always performed strongly at home. However, with a tour of India on the horizon, Lyon is suddenly under pressure to perform and take wickets against South Africa and Pakistan this home summer.