Darren Lehmann speaks to the media after day two of the second Test match between South Africa and Australia. Photo: Getty Images
Darren Lehmann says Australia must stop relying on its middle and lower order after South Africa's fast-bowlers made a bigger impact in 25 overs than Australia's made in 152.
The Proteas' ability to coast to 423 after choosing to bat first in Port Elizabeth was made to look even more impressive after Australia slumped to 4-81 in reply. Both of its not-out batsmen, David Warner (65) and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon (12 not out), survived dropped catches late in the day, while Lyon also benefited from an umpiring blunder when Kumar Dharmasena failed to see him clearly edging Dale Steyn behind in the second-last over of the day.
David Warner runs between wickets during the second day of the second Test. Photo: Reuters
"It could have been worse if they took a couple of chances. They bowled very well, give them some credit there," coach Lehmann said. "I think the wicket is still very good . . . we probably helped with a couple of dismissals."
Australia's stumble in the last session of day two at St George's Park was the sixth time in the past year, and fourth in a first innings, where it had slumped to 4-100 or worse, a record the coach admitted needed to be remedied.
"We've got to be better in those tough situations. I know it was a long day in the field with 150-odd overs . . . [but] we've got to be better at restricting the wicket column," Lehmann said.
"We've been in this situation in a few Test matches. We know what to do and we need to do it better than we did tonight.
"We'd love more first-innings runs, I've spoken to everyone in the [press] room about that at various stages. That's what we need to do to get better as a cricket side. That's probably the issue we've had in Test matches and got out of trouble with someone like Brad Haddin in a couple and obviously Shaun Marsh and Steve Smith last Test match. We've got to get better from our top-order. We know that."
Lehmann acknowledged South Africa was well on top after two days but said he was encouraged that it had limited the Proteas to scoring at 2.8 runs per over, and then in response had scored at just under 4.5 runs per over, primarily thanks to the controlled aggression of Warner.
"You don't want to bowl 150 overs in any Test, do you? Once you get past 150 overs, teams are usually 500 or 600. We managed to keep them down to 423 so that was a pleasing effort from our bowlers I thought," he said.
"I'm pleased we got 112 runs . . . certainly the game is going forward when we're batting. But disappointed with the wicket loss.
"We've got to bat really well tomorrow and keep them out in the field for most of the day. It's a good opportunity, it's a good wicket, so someone's got to stand up and make some runs."
The key to South Africa making 423 was that it had two century-makers: A.B. de Villiers (116) and J.P. Duminy (123). Both, however, also dropped a catch late in the day - de Villiers of Warner on 43, Duminy of Lyon on 12 in the last over of the day. Duminy admitted the latter had taken some of the shine off him scoring his third Test century.
"It probably does a little bit. It's never easy to drop a catch and deal with that emotion afterwards, especially coming off such a high of how today unfolded," he said. "We did let ourselves down a little bit at the end with two dropped catches, but that's the way the game goes. Hopefully we'll catch them tomorrow."
The only Australian bowler to take more than a single wicket was Nathan Lyon, whose 5-130 from 46 overs - almost a third of his team's bowling workload - was his fifth five-wicket haul of his career.
Duminy admitted the key reason it had not referred its failed caught-behind appeal against Lyon, off Dale Steyn, was that it had lost a review with the second ball of its innings. Another failed review would have left the Proteas without a referral for the next 56 overs. Nevertheless, Duminy conceded the team had blundered by not doing so.
"We were pretty confident that he nicked it, but because we only had one left and it was the nightwatchman we weren't too sure whether to take it. But a chance is a chance and you've got to take it, no matter which way it comes," he said.
Duminy said South Africa was encouraged to have pushed Australia to the brink of its longest stint in the field in a year, especially since it was playing without an all-rounder in this Test and its specialist pacemen Ryan Harris, Mitch Johnson and Peter Siddle bowled 86 overs between them.
"In the back of our mind we knew that if we kept them in the field for a long period of time that it would wear them down," he said. "They haven't really been out in the field for a long period of time [in recent months] so it was definitely a game plan of ours. We knew that if we [then] got the ball in the right areas . . . there'd be a bit of tired legs and tired eyes. Hopefully we can capitalise on that [more] tomorrow."