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Australia Just Beat South Africa In The Third Test. Yes, Really.

Hooray.

27/11/2016 12:07 PM AEDT | Updated 28/11/2016 5:29 AM AEDT
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Australia's Matt Renshaw celebrates after taking a catch to dismiss South Africa's Hashim Amla.

How do you take a terrible team and make it competitive again? In a word, add a sprinkling of belief.

No more 30-something debutants who haven't graduated beyond state cricket for 15 seasons for the very good reason they probably didn't deserve to. Give youth a go. Abandon the Mike Hussey theory, because Hussey -- who debuted in his 30 and made 6,000 Test runs at an average of 51 -- was a freak.

And it has worked. The new-look Australia just beat South Africa by seven wickets in the third Test against South Africa in Adelaide. Which was a very nice way to end the weekend, unless your name is Faf du Plessis.

Australia's bowlers did the work first, dismissing South Africa for 250, which meant the Proteas added only 56 runs overnight. Then the batsmen did their thing, give or take a wobble.

The Australian target was 127. Things were humming along at 0/64 when David Warner ran himself out, in another of those "d'oh" moments we've seen too many of this summer. Usman Khawaja followed soon afterwards, the first innings centurion trapped LBW to Proteas spinner Tabraiz Shamsi for a duck. Oh, well. Can't win 'em all.

Things seemed a little shaky for a moment there, but Steve Smith did what Steve Smith always does, which is to make batting look as easy as walking down a street.

Pleasingly, rookie opener Matt Renshaw is there alongside him. Commentators are finding flaws in his technique like flies find sausages, but you get the sense the 20-year-old Queenslander has loads of room for improvement. Quite simply, he's far too young to be set in his ways.

The win prevents South Africa from becoming the first team to whitewash Australia 3-0 on our own soil. More importantly, it restores respect. Other teams won't yet be scared of playing Australia, but at least they won't sneer at us.

It also shows that things weren't nearly as broken in Australian cricket as we'd feared. This is still a team with six absolutely world class players. They are batsmen Smith, Warner and Khawaja, and bowlers Lyon, Hazlewood and Starc.

With the exception of Lyon who had an off couple of matches in Perth and Hobart, the other five were good to very good in patches in the first two Tests. But they lacked support. Six men cannot beat 11 in a Test match.

In Adelaide, the debutants were not perfect. But they all chipped in. Renshaw's 10 in the first innings was a mediocre first offering on paper, but in reality, it helped his team hugely, firstly because he saw the team through 14 nervy overs on night one without loss, and secondly because it set a tone. His whole body language was hey, we're in for a fight here.

Peter Handscomb was another success. Great hands in the field, and a nice 50-odd to go with it. Jackson Bird played a great hand as third seamer too. This was his sixth Test, so he was not technically one of the newbie brigade, but he was still on trial. And he delivered, especially with the beautiful ball that trapped the dangerous Quinton de Kock LBW earlier on Sunday.

Two runs short of victory, captain Steve Smith departed with a faint nick to Kyle Abbott. He was out for 40. But he'd played his part. Whether or not he was there at the end to symbolically lead his team to victory hardly mattered. In fact, it was almost more fitting that two well-performed debutants in Peter Handscomb and Matt Renshaw saw us home.

Renshaw was 34 not out, Handscomb 1. Full scores are here.

The livelier vibe brought by these players seemed to lift everyone in the team. Nathan Lyon was one of them. He took four wickets for the match, and they were real wickets too, not slogs caught in the outfield. The GOAT, as they call him, is back. Australia is back. Or so we can dare to believe.

The Pakistan series starting on Boxing Day now looms as a really interesting test for this team. Pakistan were ranked number one in the world earlier this year (they're now number two) so it should be fascinating.

Before that, we play three One-Dayers against the Kiwis, beginning next weekend.

EARLIER...

Australia will head into day four of the third Test against South Africa looking to press home its advantage gained after a flurry of Proteas wickets fell late on Saturday.

Spinner Nathan Lyon was the hero for the Aussies on day three, roaring back into form with three wickets to put Steve Smith's men in a strong position at stumps.

Wily off-spinner Lyon -- under pressure to retain his place in the team -- claimed the scalps of JP Duminy, Temba Bavuma and Kyle Abbott to finish with figures of 3-48 under lights at the Adelaide Oval.

The big effort from Lyon hobbled the tourists who staggered to a 70-run lead for the loss of six wickets at the close of play, with Quinton de Kock and opener Stephen Cook at the crease.

When play resumes, South Africa will likely have to survive a fiery opening spell from in-form quick Mitchell Starc if they want to post a decent second innings total and put the Aussies under some pressure when they bat again.

If Australia can capitalise on their strong position and beat South Africa it will snap a five match losing streak and boost morale in a camp that's been smashed by a string of lacklustre performances.

South Africa resumes on 6-194 on day four, with play set to start at 2.30pm (AEDT).

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