South Africa have won their third consecutive series in Australia after routing a spineless Australian batting-order during the opening session on day four of the second Test in Hobart. After starting the pivotal day with a flicker of hope at 2 for 121, a toothless Australian team lost 8 for 40 to be bowled out for 161. South Africa’s innings and 80 runs victory means they have claimed the three-Test series with one match to spare.
Astoundingly, the match was finished 30 minutes before lunch with Australia’s disintegration pathetically lasting less than two hours on day four. After suffering an evisceration without offering a yelp, Australia has surely hit rock bottom. Only captain Steve Smith (31 from 82 balls) showed the necessary fight as bewildered batsmen continually perished all too easily in one of the most pitiful performances in Australia’s proud cricket history.
Australia were lifeless but a highly impressive and tenacious South Africa deserve all the plaudits. Man-of-the-match Kyle Abbott (6 for 77) was almost unplayable with his prodigious seam movement, while Kagiso Rabada (4 for 34) tore the heart out of Australia’s middle-and-lower order with a sustained hostile spell in further evidence of his emergence into one of the very best pacemen in the world.
It was Australia’s first series defeat on home soil in four years and the last time they lost consecutive Tests at home was during the 2010-11 Ashes, which sparked the Argus review into Australia’s performance. After such a humiliating performance, their fifth straight Test loss, recriminations will ensue and heads are likely to roll – both on-and-off the field in a tumultuous period for Australian cricket rivalling the dark days of 2013, which hit a nadir with the embarrassing ‘homework-gate’ scandal.
For South Africa, their momentous feat of winning three straight series in Australia has not been achieved since the mighty West Indies circa 1984-93. Meanwhile, in a further ignominy for Australia, the Test lasted little more than two days after the second day was washed out.
After a resolute performance late on day three, there was some belief that Australia could make a match of it but those hopes were dashed when Usman Khawaja (64) was out within the opening 20 minutes. The elegant left-hander had looked fluent late on day three but struggled re-starting, as has been a bane during his stuttering international career. After being continuously beaten by Abbott, Khawaja inevitably perished when he attempted to play on the up but only feathered a catch behind.
It triggered an unfathomable spiral as an out-of-form Adam Voges (2 from 17) was dismissed in bizarre circumstances in what may have been a career-ending dismissal. Voges was unable to evade a short Abbott delivery and the ball deflected off the bat straight to gully. To compound a horror Test match, Callum Ferguson (1) was out in eerily similar circumstances when he deflected a short ball from Rabada straight to Dean Elgar at third slip.
Smith, who was almost a one-man batting band for Australia this Test, bravely fought but struggled to muster runs against a relentless South African attack, whom collectively scarcely bowled a bad ball. Eventually, with the result a formality, Smith nicked Rabada to end his resistance.
With a ferocious mix of short and full deliveries, Rabada’s fury proved too much for the tail, who crumbled meekly as Australia suffered one of their worst ever losses.
The third and final Test in Adelaide, a day-night Test which is now a dead rubber, starts on November 24.