South Africa under fire over 'astounding' move in third Test at SCG

Dean Elgar has once again been called out for his tactics as Australia piled on the runs in the series finale in Sydney.

Dean Elgar, pictured here during the third Test between South Africa against Australia.
Dean Elgar has once again come under fire for his tactics in the third Test between South Africa and Australia. Image: Getty

Dean Elgar was taken to task on the opening day of the third Test against Australia after an 'astounding' call left commentators baffled. South Africa had kept Australia to 1-68 at lunch at the SCG, but Marnus Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja scored freely after the break.

The Aussie batters went on the attack and eventually took the score to 1-147 before Labuschagne was dismissed on the final ball before bad light stopped play for a second time. Khawaja and Labuschagne put on 135 for the second wicket as the tactics of South Africa captain Elgar came under fire once again.

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Simon Harmer and Anrich Nortje had been the Proteas' best bowlers in the morning session, but Elgar persisted with Keshav Maharaj and Kagiso Rabada after the break. Harmer was taken off early after lunch, while Nortje didn't come back on until midway through the second session.

“I’m astounded at the captaincy,” Mark Waugh said in commentary for Fox Sports. “I can’t believe Harmer is off and Maharaj is still on.

“I don’t understand the tactic. I thought Harmer looked good. He was getting some drift, some spin. He’s been taken off. Maharaj hasn’t looked like getting a wicket and he’s still bowling.”

Kerry O'Keeffe also questioned why Elgar declined an offer from the umpires to bowl his spinners in tandem before bad light stopped play the first time. The umpires weren't happy with the light but said play could continue if South Africa bowled spin at both ends.

“I thought Harmer looked the most likely to take a wicket," O'Keeffe said. “Usman Khawaja, there’s a number of left-handers to come - Head, Renshaw, Carey.

“It was an opportunity to get Australia in batting and getting them out. And he said ‘no, I was going to bowl the quicker men, we’ll go off’.”

O'Keeffe also took aim at Elgar on day two as Maharaj continued to be preferred ahead of Harmer as Khawaja and Steve Smith looked to settle. He said: “I’d have Harmer on now because there’s no seam or swing from (Marco) Jansen, so he’s really just bowling 130km/h, looking for angle.

“These are too easy runs. You’ve got to make this pair work and put them under some pressure, and I’m not sure if there’s enough in it for the quicks to do that.”

South Africa captain Dean Elgar, pictured here during the third Test against Australia.
South Africa captain Dean Elgar looks on during the third Test against Australia. (Photo by DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Images)

Aussies confident in spin plans for SCG Test

Meanwhile, the Aussies are confident they have seen enough to show the decision to play two specialist spinners at the SCG will allow them to cash in late. Both sides picked two spinners for the third Test in Sydney, where the dry wicket traditionally favours turn.

Australia's selections came as a huge gamble, with Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood their only specialist seamers and Hazlewood coming back from a three-game absence due to a side strain. Labuschagne is the closest thing the Aussies have to a part-time seamer, although he has bowled more leg-spin in his Test career.

"I don't think I've played on a wicket that's turned from the middle as much as it did today at the SCG," Labuschagne said at stumps. Even after 43 overs were lost to rain and bad light on Wednesday, early signs suggest the pitch will break up more later in the match.

Marnus Labuschagne, pictured here after his dismissal in the third Test at the SCG.
Marnus Labuschagne walks off the field after his dismissal in the third Test at the SCG. (Photo by DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Images)

Nortje noted footmarks were already appearing on the opening day and predicted the spinners would play a "massive role" as the Test progresses. That should favour Australia considering they will bowl last and can use specialist spinners Nathan Lyon and Ashton Agar, as well as part-timers Travis Head, Steve Smith and Labuschagne.

"It was very good that we won the toss and we're 2-147, because for the little cricket that's been played there's already quite a decent set of footmarks," Labuschagne said. "We certainly thought that these conditions were going to spin and not that pace is going to take a back seat, but the real damage is going to be done by the spinners as the game progresses."

with AAP

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