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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tales of two Tests #2: RSA v Aus, WI v Eng

2 x First Test(s), Day 2

At Johannesburg: Australia 466 (125.4 ov, M North 117, M Johnson 96*, R Ponting 83, M Clarke 68, B Haddin 63, D Steyn 4/113, M Morkel 3/117) v South Africa 3/85 (37 ov)

At Bridgetown: England 6/600 dec (153.2 ov, A Strauss 142, R Bopara 104, P Collingwood 96, A Cook 94, T Ambrose 76*, F Edwards 3/151) v West Indies 1/85 (R Sarwan 40*)

In each match the team batting second ended the second day with 85 runs on the board in pursuit of their respective opponents' large, perhaps unexpectedly large, totals.

At Jo'burg Marcus North and Mitchell Johnson took Australia well beyond the commentators' par 350 to an impressive, perhaps even surprising, 466. North continued in his day one, very assured, vein as he moved his score methodically to 117/ 233b (12x4) and his team's from 151 to 413.

When he was out the tail, if that collective noun still accurately describes Johnson, wagged. A
Paul Harris over from which Johnson took 26 was the high (or low, depending on your allegiance) point of a 53run/28b 9th wkt partnership.

Then, in a cruel reversal of fortune, the hitherto unimpressive Morne Morkel dismissed Peter Siddle caught at second slip off consecutive deliveries, (the first of which was a no-ball) and Ben Hilfenhaus off the subsequent one, leaving Johnson high and dry with a magnificent 96* /131b (10x 4, 5x6).

Mark Waugh in the Foxtel studio had earlier stated his opinion that Johnson was a top notch allrounder who would score more than one Test century. The first of these should have come today, but there will surely be others.

South Africa batted and wilted in the face of this recovery. Johnson (Player of the match?) and Hilfenhaus dismissed Graham Smith and Hashim Amla for 0 and 1 respectively: 2/2. Neil McKenzie and Jacques Kallis plugged the leaks a little but didn't bail hard enough as the latter, having scored his 10,000th Test run, fell to Siddle: 3/49.

A stumps score of 3/85 at least raises the prospect of the Proteas saving the follow on. As I type this I realise that Australia were in a similar position, so I'll hold my peace for now.


I didn't watch the live telecast from Barbados for long enough to see England move to what looks on paper an invincible.position (even though this week's Pakistan - Sri Lanka match suggests that everything might not yet be resolved).

Nor did I see enough of the highlights to comment on the England batting, especially Ravi Bopara's 104/143b or Paul Collingwood's 96/159b, but I did see the sequence of replays which resulted in the TV umpire confirming (or advising his colleague in the middle) that James Anderson's lbw appeal/ challenge to the initial decision was justified. From the side on replay the delivery looked to me like a no ball. I've not checked to see what other commentators have said. Whatever they do the scorecard shows C Gayle lbw Anderson 6.

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