Sutherland’s double century overwhelms South Africa before quicks strike

South Africa

South Africa 75 and 67 for 3 (Tucker 27*, Brits 18*, Garth 2-8) trail Australia 575 for 9 dec (Sutherland 210, Healy 99, Mooney 78, Gardner 65, Tryon 3-81) by 432 runs

Annabel Sutherland smashed a slew of records after notching an imperious double century on day two as a ruthless Australia closed in on a comprehensive Test victory against South Africa at the WACA.

After toiling for 125.2 overs in the field, a tired South Africa offered little resistance and, much like their first innings of 76, the top-order merely poked and prodded to offer practice catching for Australia’s packed slips cordon.

Opener Anneke Bosch completed a miserable match with a pair, while captain Laura Wolvaardt could not capitalise on an early reprieve to nick off against a superb delivery from Brown on 8.

There was the small chance that the match could finish inside two days, but debutants Delmi Tucker and Tazmin Brits showed much needed fight with a half-century partnership as the shadows creeped onto the ground.

With their quicks bowling an unrelenting line and length, Australia appeared likely to take a wicket on almost every delivery in a far cry to earlier in the day when South Africa could only capture four wickets in more than two sessions.

Sutherland completely thwarted South Africa and her innings was initially marked by patience. She learned from a succession of batters earlier in the match who had perished by driving on the up before being set.

Sutherland only scored 7 off her first 35 balls as she showed discipline around her off stump. Once she was settled, Sutherland unfurled effortless ball striking and struck 27 fours and two sixes in her 256-ball masterpiece.

Sutherland, 22, reached the fastest ever double century on her 248th delivery on the last ball before tea to become the second-youngest player to reach the feat.

She was in range of the world record Test score of 242 by Pakistan’s Kiran Baluch against West Indies in 2004, before falling to left-arm spinner Chloe Tryon after failing to execute the scoop shot.

She fell agonisingly short of Ellyse Perry’s Australia record of 213 as she walked off to a standing ovation from the WACA crowd, which included her parents.

Sutherland shared big partnerships with Healy, who made 99 on day one, and Ashleigh Gardner, who hit 65.

It was a major disappointment for South Africa in their first Test match against Australia. They had Australia in trouble at 12 for 3 before falling away as their seamers badly erred in their lengths.

After enduring close to 50-degree heat on day one, South Africa had badly needed early wickets in much cooler conditions and overcast skies.

Quick Masabata Klaas hoped to continue her stellar debut after ripping apart Australia’s top-order, but was thwarted by a 144-run partnership from Sutherland and Gardner.

They made batting look relatively easy as South Africa struggled to find a spark. Gardner notched her half-century by dispatching a short ball to the boundary, but did have a couple of anxious moments when she survived two reviews.

After resuming on 54, Sutherland looked imperious and treated the offspin of Tucker with disdain through superb use of the feet to club her down the ground.

Sutherland moved into the 90s and her path towards a century faced the obstacle of Klaas armed with the second new ball. But she was undaunted and whacked consecutive boundaries to reach her ton and raise her bat to the WACA faithful rising to their feet.

South Africa finally enjoyed a breakthrough when Nadine de Klerk trapped Gardner lbw to end the 144-run partnership. But Sutherland continued on her merry way as she easily surpassed her highest score of 137 in last year’s Nottingham Ashes Test.

In her first Test match since late 2021, Sophie Molineux made a fluent 33 but the show belonged to Sutherland who had also claimed 3 for 19 in South Africa’s first innings to illustrate her rising superstardom.

Sutherland understandably was not called upon to bowl late on the day after her unforgettable knock.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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