De Villiers’ 126* propels South Africa lead to 139 | Cricket Bats | Australia

Lunch South Africa 382 (De Villiers 126*, Elgar 57, Amla 56, Cummins 3-79) lead Australia 243 (Warner 63, Rabada 5-96) by 139 runs
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AB de Villiers scored his first Test century in more than three years, and one of the finest of his Test career, as South Africa extended their lead to very healthy proportions on the third day at St George’s Park. South Africa started the morning 20 runs in front with three wickets in hand; a series of partnerships between de Villiers and the bowlers frustrated Australia and added 119 more to their total for the loss of the final three wickets.

De Villiers finished unbeaten on 126 from 146 deliveries, an innings of sheer brilliance and one that will be hard-pressed to be topped as the defining performance of this match. It was his 22nd Test hundred and his first since January 2015, when he had made 148 against West Indies in Cape Town. Here, he scored his runs seemingly at will; no matter what Australia’s bowlers sent down, he manipulated balls from everywhere into his scoring zones.

His century came from his 117th delivery with a typically inventive stroke, gliding Pat Cummins over the cordon for a boundary. Importantly, he batted well with the lower order, forging an 84-run stand with Vernon Philander, then a 58-run partnership with Keshav Maharaj, and finally a 13-run stand with Lungi Ngidi to cap off the innings nicely. The final wicket came when Ngidi was run out in an effort for de Villiers to retain the strike, and South Africa were dismissed for 382, with a lead of 139.

Philander had played the perfect support innings for de Villiers by scoring a calm 36 before he was brilliantly snapped up by Cameron Bancroft, whose reflexes at short leg cannot be underestimated. Philander had worked a delivery away to leg off Cummins and a lesser close-in fieldsman might have flinched, but Bancroft held his ground and pouched the chance.

Maharaj almost threw his innings away early when he slogged Nathan Lyon over midwicket and Usman Khawaja tried a juggling take, throwing the ball back in as he landed over the rope. Maharaj looked set to walk off, with de Villiers clearly frustrated by his shot selection, but replays showed Khawaja had failed to let go of the ball before his foot was grounded over the rope, and it was ruled a six.

If Maharaj learnt his lesson it was only briefly, for in Lyon’s next over he clubbed another six over the leg side, and his 30 off 24 balls proved to be a very handy cameo. In the end, another attempted slog brought his downfall as he was bowled by Josh Hazlewood.

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