Johannesburg: Captain Tim Paine batted bravely with a stress fracture on his thumb as scandal-hit Australia showed some much-needed fight in the fourth Test against South Africa, going to lunch on the third day on 201 for seven at The Wanderers on Sunday.
Paine (47 not out) and Pat Cummins (50), who reached a maiden Test half century, put on 99 for the seventh wicket before the latter was out leg before wicket to spinner Keshav Maharaj 10 minutes before the interval.
Australia are still in trouble as they still trail by 287 runs on the first innings, but have slowed the victory charge of the home side who seek a first home Test series win over the tourists in almost 50 years.
South Africa’s frustrating morning was compounded when seamer Morne Morkel, playing in his final test before retirement from international cricket, was forced from the field with a left side strain that leaves his further participation in the test in doubt.
Paine will resume after the interval with Nathan Lyon (4), with the first target to avoid the follow-on, though it looks unlikely that the home side would enforce it with Morkel receiving treatment.
Wicketkeeper Paine picked up his injury while standing up to the stumps for seamer Chadd Sayers on the second day, but has been able to continue in the match and has provided dogged resistance.
Australia resumed their innings in desperate trouble on 110 for six, and after a cautious start took the attack to the South Africa, particularly spinner Maharaj (two for 83).
On what should have been a bowlers morning with heavy cloud cover, the home side beat the bat with regularity, but battled to create wicket-taking chances.
It looked as though Australia would survive the session, but when Cummins attempted a sweep off Maharaj, the ball struck him on the back heel plumb in front.
Umpire Ian Gould, who had earlier incorrectly given Paine out leg before wicket when the batsman got an inside edge, was forced to change his decision again having originally not upheld the South African appeal.
Australia need victory to avoid a first series defeat in South Africa since 1970, but have been rocked by the ball-tampering scandal that saw former captain Steve Smith, his deputy David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft sent home after the third test in Cape Town and slapped with hefty bans.