Australia’s under-siege Test side are at risk of hitting an unprecedented low, having handed South Africa a series victory with yet another crippling batting collapse in Hobart.
Australia’s dependence on Steve Smith was laid bare for the second time in the second Test at Bellerive, where the Proteas completed an innings-and-80-run win before lunch on day four – the home side’s fifth straight Test defeat.
South Africa claimed an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series on Tuesday, rolling Australia for 161 at 11.53 AEDT to mark their third consecutive Test series win in Australia.
Further ignominy for Smith could come under lights at Adelaide Oval. Never before in the history of the sport has Australia been whitewashed in a Test series on home soil.
Based on how the pink ball hooped around in Adelaide last year, there’s likely to be a result in the final Test that starts next Thursday.
The hosts tumbled towards a fifth straight Test loss during a collapse of 8-32 in 19.2 overs, with Kyle Abbott snaring six wickets to be named man of the match.
Kagiso Rabada claimed four wickets in Tuesday’s stunning opening session.
It was the latest of many woeful batting performances in recent years that has left coach Darren Lehmann, selectors and Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland under immense pressure.
“We’ve got to find a way to be a bit more resilient and spend some time out in the middle. Whether it’s seaming, swinging or spinning we’re having some trouble,” Smith said in the post-match ceremony.
“Guys have to find ways to get themselves in … it was just about trying to fight and spend some time out in the middle and bat for the day.”
Asked to deliver a message to the Australian public, Smith called on them to “stick with us, we’re doing our best … trying to turn it around”.
Selectors are expected to settle on a squad for the third Test later this week but changes are fully expected, with Adam Voges likely to be dropped. South Australian Callum Ferguson – on debut – failed for the second time in the match, being dismissed for one this morning after the disaster of his first innings run-out for three.
“That’s up to selectors. When you lose five Test matches in a row, things are going to be talked about,” Smith said, when asked about potential changes.
Smith dug in, taking 40 minutes to score his first runs on day four, but would have been struck with a sense of deja vu as he watched Australia slip from 2-129 to 7-150.
The skipper was eventually caught behind on 31. Rain offered more resistance than Australia’s batsmen, with the entire second day abandoned without a ball being bowled.
Smith had finished 48 not out on day one, when Australia posted a paltry total of 85 after being sent in by Faf du Plessis.
It was the nation’s lowest Test total on home soil since 1984.
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