Cricket: De Villiers' spell revives S Africa: Record-breaking Warne spins Australia to brink of victory before Kent reject turns tide in dramatic fashion

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South Africa 169 and 239

Australia 292 and 63-4

FANIE DE VILLIERS may not have set Canterbury alight during his brief pilgrimage to Kent a couple of summers ago, but the South African fast bowler certainly did his manful best to fan the flames of a dying contest in Sydney yesterday.

To Australian eyes, the second Test seemed all but done and dusted when the inevitable Shane Warne sent back Chris Matthews to terminate the tourists' second innings at 239, taking his match figures to a career-best 12 for 128 and leaving his batsmen requiring a seemingly straightforward 117 runs to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.

Michael Slater, whose 92 in the first innings constituted the highest score of a low-scoring match, was bowled by De Villiers for a single but Mark Taylor and David Boon were making serene progress when de Villiers returned to end their second-wicket stand at 51. Swinging the ball freely into the wind, he had Boon held at short leg, then trapped the nightwatchman, Tim May, first ball, before eliciting an edge from Taylor in his next over. A spell of 3 for 5 left Australia shaken, although Allan Border, seven not out at stumps in his last Test at the SCG, can be expected to stir his side to gather the remaining 54 runs.

Jonty Rhodes, with a jaunty unbeaten 76 off 162 balls, had earlier revived South African hopes, adding 72 with wicketkeeper David Richardson for the sixth wicket and 36 with Allan Donald for the 10th after the pace and stealth of Craig McDermott and Warne had reduced Kepler Wessels' side from their overnight 94 for 2 to 110 for 5, still 13 runs in arrears.

Hansie Cronje, who will replace the injured Wessels as captain for the final Test, had added just one run to his overnight 37 when bowled by McDermott, while the departing Wessels was also bowled in the opening half-hour, this time by the irrepressible Warne, who has now claimed 96 wickets in his 22 Tests.

(Fourth day: South Africa won toss)

SOUTH AFRICA - First Innings 169 (G Kirsten 67, S K Warne 7-56).

AUSTRALIA - First Innings 292 (M Slater 92, F de Villiers 4-80).

SOUTH AFRICA - Second Innings

(Overnight: 94 for 2)

H J Cronje b McDermott 38

* K C Wessels b Warne 18

D J Cullinan lbw b Warne 2

J N Rhodes not out 76

D J Richardson lbw b McGrath 24

P L Symcox c Healy b McDermott 4

C R Matthews c M Waugh b Warne 4

P S de Villiers lbw b Warne 2

A A Donald c Healy b Warne 10

Extras (b13 lb1 nb5) 19

Total 239

Fall (cont): 3-101 4-107 5-110 6-182 7-188 8-197 9-203.

Bowling: McDermott 28-9-62-4 (nb-2); McGrath 14- 3-30-1; May 22-4-53-0 (nb-3); Warne 42-17-72-5; Border 3-1-8-0.

AUSTRALIA - Second Innings

M J Slater b de Villiers 1

M A Taylor c Richardson b de Villiers 27

D C Boon c Kirsten b de Villiers 24

T B A May lbw b de Villiers 0

M E Waugh not out 4

* A R Border not out 7

Extras 0

Total (for 4) 63

Fall: 1-4 2-51 3-51 4-56.

To bat: D Martyn, I A Healy, S K Warne, C J McDermott, G D McGrath.

Bowling: Donald 7-3-13-0; de Villiers 12-4-22-4; Matthews 6-5-9-0; Symcox 8-3-19-0.

(Photograph omitted)