Kagiso Rabada picked up five wickets to lead South Africa’s march to a 177-run win in Perth on the fifth afternoon to hand Australia a rare defeat in the first home Test of the season on Monday (November 7).
Set a huge victory target of 539, Australia were dismissed for 361 in their second innings as they succumbed to their fourth straight Test defeat. Steven Smith’s men lost all three Tests on their tour of Sri Lanka in July-August, and they must now look for a quick recovery at this week’s second Test in Hobart.
Australia hadn’t lost the first Test of a home season after 1988, but Rabada stepped up after Dale Steyn’s shoulder injury to help South Africa complete a remarkable victory. Debutant Keshav Maharaj (1-94) delivered the final blow, trapping Nathan Lyon, the No. 11, lbw for eight, leaving Peter Nevill unbeaten on 60.
Resuming at 169 for 4, a draw was Australia’s only hope and it appeared a forlorn task, with Rabada returning 5 for 92. Rabada, 21, claimed three wickets on the fourth evening and two more on fifth morning to record his fourth five-wicket haul in just nine Tests, a record for a South African player of his age.
The rot set in early for Australia on the final day, when a searing Rabada yorker hit Mitchell Marsh on the pad when he was on 26, although he was given not out by umpire Aleem Dar. The South Africans reviewed the decision successfully to end a 50-run stand between Marsh and Usman Khawaja.
Rabada then grabbed his fifth wicket when he trapped Mitchell Starc lbw with another fast yorker for 13.
JP Duminy capped a fine match for himself, in which he scored a century in South Africa’s second innings, by claiming the wicket of Khawaja, lbw for 97, with his offspin.
Temba Bavuma, who produced one of the great run outs on the fourth day to dismiss David Warner, the first Australian to fall, was brought on to bowl – chiefly to give rest to the main bowlers in Steyn’s absence – and almost struck with his first ball in Test cricket. It skidded through and struck Khawaja right in front of the stumps, but Bavuma had overstepped and it was a no-ball, denying him the honour of becoming just the 21st bowler to claim a wicket with the first ball in Test cricket.
However, Bavuma had his moment later in the innings, breaking an obdurate 65-run ninth-wicket stand by having Josh Hazlewood caught off the leading edge for 29.
South Africa, who looked almost out of the match on the second day when Australia cruised to 158 for none in reply to their first-innings total 242, declared their second innings on 540 for 8 after lunch on the fourth day to set Australia a record run chase.
The win also extended South Africa’s domination over Australia at the WACA ground in Perth, where they have now won three and drawn one of their four Test matches.