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Friday, November 11, 2011

4 innings, 23 wickets , 294 runs in (the most ever?) bizarre Test day: T1D2

South Africa 96 (24.3 ov, Watson 5/17, Harris 4/33)  & 1/81 (17ov) need 155 more runs with 9 2nd inns wickets in hand to beat Australia 284 (75 ov, Clarke 151, Steyn 4/55, Philander 3/63, Morkel 3/82) & 47 (18ov, Philander 5/15, Morkel 3/9) : T1/2 D2/5 at Newlands, Cape Town.

I was not alone among  cricket followers, including a former Australian captain , in retiring after Australia had added a further 70 runs and rolled South Africa for 96, a lead of 188.

How unwise I was. Despite Michael Clarke's magnificent (and now at least partly overshadowed by subsequent events) 151/176b (22x4), Shane Watson's quickfire 5-2-17-5 and Ryan Harris' 10.3-3-33-4, Australia crumbled in the face of some hostile South African bowling, with Vernon Philander's 7-3-15-5 matching Watson.

Judging from the highlights (three hours' worth) which I watched this morning, there were some ultra soft Australian dismissals including , but not limited to, Mike Hussey's first ball and Brad Haddin's swish. It was cold comfort that the last wicket pair of Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon more  than doubled the score, moving it from a scarcely believable 9/21 to all out 47. South Africa's first innings batting was far from above reproach, too: nos 2 to 7 contributed 15 to the total between them, the same as Australia's 1 to  6 (the injured Sean Marsh batted at 10).

There were many other quirky and extraordinary features of the day's play, several of which
Cricinfo has noted.

Just as Clarke and Siddle made batting look, if not easy then manageable early in the day, so in the later stages did the South Africans. Graeme Smith, whose unfinished double of 37 and 36* may yet win the match, looked in good touch, while Hashim Amla benefited from a last ball of the day letoff.

Not many teams  who've been bowled out in the first innings 188 behind their opponents' score could claim to have had the better of a day's play.  Yet, even allowing for the good opposition bowling in what often looked to be favourable conditions, Australia's credulity-stretching second innings meltdown has left South Africa in the stronger position.

A tense evening on the couch beckons.


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