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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Australia 1/174, then crumble to 30 run lead T2D2

South Africa 266 & 0/0 (0.4 ov) trail Australia 296 (76.4 ov, Watson 88, Hughes 88, Steyn 4/64, Imran Tahir 3/55) by 30 runs with 10 2nd inns wickets in hand: T2/2 D2/5 at Wanderers Johannesburg. 

Another topsy turvy day in which Australia climbed the heights in the first session only to plunge to the depths thereafter.

At lunch Shane Watson and Phil Hughes had stroked and cudgelled Australia to 169 from 33 overs. Yes, they had a little good fortune - balls hit or edged just out of fielders' reach, South Africa not referring a decision to the UDRS- but the South African attack, including Dale Steyn, bowled too often to their strengths.

Yet after the interval the tables turned. At 174 Hughes went for 88/111b (14x4), an aggressive and therefore, Hughes being Hughes, occasionally risky innings, but one which should quieten for a little longer those who, me included, have questioned his suitability for the eleven.  Watson followed at 192, for a slightly longer 88/140b (2x6, 14x4), after which the rot set in.

The real turning point was when Steyn had Ricky Ponting adjudged lbw for 0: not a good stroke, but after watching the replay I wondered why he didn't review it. But no excuses then , nor subsequently as Usman Khawaja, an obdurate 12/57b (1x4), Michaels Clarke 11/33b (2x4)  and Hussey 24/27b (4x4) and Brad Haddin 16/ 23b (3x4) followed. Mitchell Johnson 38*/49b (6x4) was the only other contribution of note, and one which at least gave Australia a very modest, and by no means matchwinning, lead of 30.

After the Ponting dismissal Steyn got his second wind, the other quick bowlers regrouped and supported him well, while Imran Tahir, with a sharp googly, helped disposed of the tail without too much difficulty.

As on D1 bad light intervened just as the South African second innings began. They're still 30 behind but after today have regained the initiative. Australia are a bowler (Watson) down and have to bat last on a pitch of unknown lasting power. Time for a significant innings from Ponting perhaps?

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