Steve Smith might have a love affair with the SCG, but on this occasion his hallowed home turf got the better of him.
The former Australia skipper almost had another wonder catch to add to his long collection, producing a brilliant effort on day four of the third test against South Africa on Saturday, only to be denied by the TV umpire.
With the hosts having declared overnight at 475-4 in their first innings of the rain-hit match, they looked to have rocked the Proteas in just the fifth over of their reply, when Smith seemingly sensationally snaffled South Africa skipper Dean Elgar for six off the bowling of Josh Hazlewood.
Diving acrobatically from second slip and reaching down with his right hand in front of first slip David Warner, Smith pulled off what looked to have been a stunner, before eventually being undone by replays showing the ball had made contact with the ground.
While his team-mates embraced him, Smith never looked fully convinced, Elgar stood his ground, and the umpires sent the decision on the catch upstairs, with Kiwi Chris Gaffaney having provided a ‘soft signal’ of ‘not out’.
And after several minutes of deliberation and countless replays, English TV umpire Richard Kettleborough eventually made the call that, after the ball had gone into Smith’s hand, it had indeed been placed on the grass before he scooped it up.
It wasn’t the first contentious catch of the match, with Kettleborough on the opening day of the test having overturned a ‘soft signal’ ‘out’ decision when Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne had nicked to Simon Harmer.
Smith, who in this match had already scored a 30th test century, surpassing the great Sir Donald Bradmanand his Aussie team-mates didn’t have to rue the near-miss for long, though, with Elgar falling just a few overs later anyway when caught behind by Alex Carey for 15 off a Hazlewood short ball.
At stumps on day four, Australia had a glimpse of what appeared to be an unlikely victory and a series clean sweep as they took six of the 20 South African wickets they needed.
Captain Pat Cummins took three wickets in a fearsome display of pace bowling under gray skies, while Josh Hazlewood picked up two and Nathan Lyon claimed another, amongst a clutch of several near misses, as the Proteas finished Saturday at 149-6, trailing Australia by 327 runs.
To win, Australia needs to capture the four remaining South African first-innings wickets and then enforce the follow-on in a bid to bowl the Proteas out a second time – all within three sessions on Sunday’s final day.
A win for Australia in this third test would confirm their place in the world test championship final to be played at Lord’s in England in June.
– with AP