Cricket: Australia facing huge task to save first test against South Africa

South Africa need six more wickets to hand Australia their first defeat in the opening test to the summer since 1988. Photo /Getty
South Africa need six more wickets to hand Australia their first defeat in the opening test to the summer since 1988. Photo /Getty

Peter Siddle has called on Australia to take a leaf out of South Africa's book when they resume at 4-169 on day five of the first Test, with an inglorious defeat very much on the cards at the WACA.

Australia haven't started their home summer with a Test loss since 1988.

The dismissals of David Warner and Steve Smith on Sunday, coupled with Friday's collapse of 10-86 and the magnificent form of Proteas paceman Kagiso Rabada, mean that streak is at great risk of ending.

The tourists set Australia a victory target of 539 runs when Faf du Plessis declared at 8-540 shortly after lunch on day four.

The highest successful run chase in Test cricket came in 2003, when West Indies reached 7-418 to defeat Australia in St John's.

But it was only four years ago when du Plessis secured a remarkable draw with an unbeaten ton on debut at Adelaide Oval.

South Africa were four down at stumps on day four of that contest and also given little hope of stonewalling through three sessions.

"We know stranger things can happen at the end of Test matches if you drag them out until late in day five," Siddle said, having delivered 63.5 overs in that memorable match.

"We know they're a bowler down so we have to keep them out there for as long as possible.

"This next partnership is going be a big one for us. If these boys can start well and see us through for the first session it'd be nice."It's a bit deflating ... we're in a hard place, which is disappointing. We'll see tomorrow, we can always dream."

Usman Khawaja is 58 not out and holds the key to Australia's hopes of heading to Hobart with the three-Test series level.Allrounder Mitch Marsh, who will play the second Test but is under immense pressure to retain his spot in Australia's XI, negotiated 29 balls to finish 15 not out on Sunday.

Rabada, stepping up in the absence of injured spearhead Dale Steyn, bowled magnificently for South Africa.Smith, Shaun Marsh and Adam Voges were all out edging to him. The way the 21-year-old swung the ball both ways and successfully worked over Voges in the 47th over was particularly impressive.

Even Khawaja was undone by Rabada on 41, when he poked his bat at a delivery that swung late. Keeper Quinton de Kock opted against flying for the edge, leaving first slip Hashim Amla to grass a one-handed chance.

South Africa bowling coach Charl Langeveldt didn't expect the final six wickets would come quickly or easily.

"It's going to be hard. The ball isn't turning as much ... it's going to be down to our two seamers," Langeveldt said.

"You have to prepare to come tomorrow and say we're going to win the game in the 80th over. Ideally we don't want that.

"But that's how cricket goes, we could be playing the whole day."

Warner and Shaun Marsh were both dismissed in the 13th over, the former run out on 35 by a sensational piece of fielding from Temba Bavuma.

Another collapse was on the cards when Khawaja was given out for a golden duck the following over but he successfully reviewed the caught-behind dismissal.

- AAP

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