South Africa stonewalled their way to 4-71 at stumps on day four of a Test they’re desperate to draw, as they did at Adelaide Oval in December 2012.
But David Warner, who continued his career-best form by scoring his second century this Test, says Newlands is no Adelaide Oval.
AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis must do the bulk of the work on Wednesday if their world No.1 side are to avoid defeat in the Test series decider.
De Villiers has already soaked up 100 balls, while du Plessis will be next man in when nightwatchman Kyle Abbott falls.
It is a near-identical scenario to what happened 16 months ago in Adelaide, when de Villiers and du Plessis resumed on day five with their team 4-77 and considered no chance of surviving.
Du Plessis did just that, finishing 110 not out and lasting almost eight hours on debut.
In 2012 the draw was part of a 1-0 series win, now it’s a result that would leave the series squared 1-1 and make Graeme Smith’s swansong a more memorable one.
Warner acknowledged the similarities but took confidence from one key difference.
“The issue last time was that the ball wasn’t reversing in Adelaide,” he said after smacking 145 to bring his series tally to 543 runs at an average of 90.5.
“We have that in our advantage (here).
“We have to play boring cricket … we are really going to have to work hard.”
There are other factors that suggest Australia are on track to record their greatest achievement under Michael Clarke, who declared at 5-303 late in the second session to hold a 510-run buffer.
James Pattinson broke down in the first innings of the 2012 Test, this time he made the breakthrough 20 minutes before stumps when Hashim Amla was trapped lbw.
Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson weren’t in the XI, and now they’re bowling impeccably and will take the second new ball.
Proteas coach Russell Domingo took heart from the hosts’ form in not only Adelaide but Johannesburg, where they also put up the wall for approximately four-and-a-half sessions against India three months ago.
“We’ve managed to get ourselves out of holes like this before, so it’s a big plus we can call on that experience,” Domingo said.
“The wicket is still pretty good.
“We’re hoping AB can score the slowest 40 in the history of the game.”
Romantics had hoped for one last hurrah from Smith, who was given a guard of honour as he ended his stellar Test career 12 years after it started against the same opposition at the same venue.
Instead Johnson, who first planted the seeds of retirement doubt in Smith’s mind when he made a fool of him at Centurion, again snared the 33-year-old’s scalp with a short-pitched ball.
Johnson also uprooted Dean Elgar’s stumps, while Harris trapped Alviro Petersen lbw to claim his 100th Test wicket and start the collapse that finished with the Proteas 3-15 at tea.
Back home and the battle for a Sheffield Shield final has tightened further with New South Wales 5-230 at stumps on the second day of the four-day clash against South Australia at Adelaide Oval.
The Blues are chasing SA’s first innings total of 288 and what could be crucial first innings points.
The NSW reply began badly, with the visitors slumping to 3-51 after two batsmen self-destructed.
Opener Nic Maddinson made a rash attempt to reach a short, wide ball and was caught behind for a third-ball duck, and Ben Roehrer (7) inexplicably shouldered arms to a Kane Richardson ball which crashed into middle stump.
But the Blues were steadied by an accomplished knock from 20-year-old Patterson, who put on a 122-run stand with Nevill for the fifth wicket – the highest partnership of the match.
Play resumes at 2pm today.
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