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Friday, November 30, 2012

Fresh bowling legs sharpen Australia T3D1

Australia 2/33 (11 ov) trail South Africa 225 (74ov, Plessis 78*. Lyon 3/41)  by 192 runs with 8 first inns wkts in hand: T3/3 D1/5 at Perth. South Africa won toss and chose to bat,

Australia's decision to rely on the support staff's opinion and omit (? questionabIy) Peter Siddle and (?understandably)Ben  Hilfenhaus looked wrong when medium pacer John Hastings on debut opened the bowling into the WACA breeze after Graeme Smith won the toss and  (no surprise) opted no bat.

The new, or in Mitchell Johnson's case, repurposed (read into that what you will) home attack took a while to settle in. But once Mitchell Starc found his line and length, Hastings (who was billed as an accurate bowler) his and Johnson his dimly remembered zest, Australia hammered back into the match, reducing the Proteas on either side of lunch from 1/61 t0 6/75.  Good bowling after a lacklustre (read inaccurate) start.

Once again (OK, in his second Test) Faf du Plessis 78* (12x4) mustered the lower-middle order and the visitors made batting look easier as they advanced to 225: a modest score, but much better than looked likely for much of the innings.

Australia's reply was tentative, to say the least: Ed Cowan caught ar slip for a first ball duck and Shane Watson given out lbw by the DRS.But David Warner and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon dug in to allow Australia (and Ricky Ponting in his final Test) to fight another day.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Long day's journey into nought

Australia 550 & 8/267 dec drew with South Africa 388 & 8/248 (148 ov, duPlessis 110*, Kallis 46, Siddle 4/65, Lyon 3/49) T2/3 D5/5 at Adelaide. Series level 0-0 with one Test to play.

Faf duPlessis 110*/376b (14x4), supported chiefly by AB deVilliers 33/220b ( 0 boundaries) and Jacques Kallis 46/110b (6x4,) batted with grit, determination and a straight bat to reprieve South Africa from what looked at 4/77 overnight  to be a likely (probable?) defeat. He was deservedly named Player of the Match. Michael Clarke's double century may have put Australia on course for a win but duPlessis's last day heroics together with his first innings 78 kept the Proteas in with a chance of securing a draw.

I went to the Oval but left at lunch to watch the rest of game (and  England's win over India) on TV  with South Africa 4/126, having scored 49 from 35 overs without loss in the session. Even then, despite a couple of DRS reviews which favoured the Proteas, the ball seemed to be hitting the middle of the bat regularly. The pitch, which didn't help the bowlers as much as the script (and previous Adelaide Tests) said it should, played some part, but the impressive mental and technical skills of duPlessis and, at that point, deVilliers pointed to a long hot afternoon (and evening for the bowlers.

When Peter Siddle bowled deVilliers shortly after lunch 5/134,  Australia had a glimmer, perhaps more,  of hope.  But Jacques Kallis and du Plessis dispelled this with more stonewalling (less so in the injured Kallis's case). The three specialist Australian bowlers persisted,iwith the occasional near miss until Nathan Lyon, whose 50-31-49-3, snared Kallis: 6/233. Then, with the tail exposed at one end,  Peter Siddle roused himself for a final effort, taking two more wickets before Morne Morkel played out the last - his 22nd and the team's 98th of the day - leaving South Africa exultant and Australia, not least Siddle after his33-15-65-4,deflated.

South Africa will regard this non-result as a victory and Australia as a defeat. Both are wrong, but with T3 starting in a few days the side which regroups the quickest and which is able to replace its casualties and failures effectively will start the Perth Test on the front foot. But, as this match showed, over five days things change.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Australia on course to go one up T2D4

South Africa 388 & 4/77 (50 ov)  need 353 runs with six 2nd innings wickets in hand to defeat Australia 550 & 8/267 dec (Hussey 54, Warner 41, Morkel 3/50, Kleinveldt 3/65): T2/3 D4/5 at Adelaide Oval.

South Africa did enough to make the match go into the final day when, with six wickets in hand and 353 runs to get, they'll require a superhuman effort (and perhaps a little assistance from the weather) to hang on for a draw against a tight Australian attack.

Once Michael Clarke 38/61b (1x6, 3x4) and Mike Hussey 54/95b (7x4) had kept the Proteas attack at bay and taken the lead .beyond 300, Australia looked pretty safe.Further runs from the tail enabled Clarke to declare with a lead of 430.

The wicket was still playing reasonably well for an Adelaide fourth day one, yet even with James Pattinson unable to bowl (for the rest of the Test season we are told) 430 looked beyond South Africa. Only a big innings or two from Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and, perhaps, AB deVilliers,  with some lower order support from the injured Jacques Kallis and the others, would give them a very slim chance of victory.

As it turned out both Smith and Amla fell cheaply, as did Alviro Petersen and Jacques Rudolph. At 4/45 de Villiers and Faf du Plessis dug in, adding 32 from the day's last 29 overs. They took no risks whatsoever and, it must be said blunted, the hitherto sharp edge of the Australian bowling. Whether they'll be able to keep this up for another day looks highly unlikely...but South Africa have done unlikely things against Australia before.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bowlers keep South Africa in with a (slight) chance T2D3

Australia 550 & 5/111 (32 ov, Warner 41, Kleinveldt 3/14) lead South Africa 388 (124.3 ov, Smith 122, du Plessis 78, Kallis 58, Petersen 54, Hilfenhaus 3/49) by 273 runs with five 2nd inns wkts in hand: T2/3 D3/5 at Adelaide

While Graeme Smith 122/ 244b (14x4) didn't add much to his overnight score,  Faf du Plessis 78/159b (1x6, 13x4) on debut and, coming in at no9, the injured Jacques Kallis 58/93b (1x6, 10x4) kept the tenacious Australian attack at bay long enough to post what was, after 7/250 at one point, a respectable but, after the overnight expectations of 2/217, a disappointing score.

Ed Cowan and David Warner's 77 opening stand looked to be taking the game beyond the Proteas, but then Rory Kleinveldt 6-1-14-3 struck against the brittle top order, leaving Michael Clarke 9* and Mike Hussey * to attempt yet again to give Australia a goodish (read 350+) lead. After an unconvincing 16, Ricky Ponting's tenure in the side will be questioned again  (and even I am wondering whether his place can be justified) .

On paper Australia are still in the better position. They have runs on the board and South Africa have to bat last on a wearing Adelaide Oval wicket.

While both sides are a bowler short, with two days left to play a draw seems the least likely outcome and an Australian win the most.

Scorecard .

Friday, November 23, 2012

South Africa fight back with ball and bat: T2D2

South Africa 2/217 (67 ov, Smith 111*, Petersen 54) trail Australia 550 (107.2 ov, Clarke 230, Warner 119, M Hussey 103, Pattinson 42, Morkel 7/148) by 333 runs on first innings: T2/3 D2/5 at Adelaide.

Nobody would have expected a repeat of the first day's pyrotechnics yet few would have expected South Africa to regroup as emphatically as they did today. First Morne Morkel led a refocused Protea pace attack to take the last five home wickets for 68, 46 of which came from the last wicket partnership. To the disappointment of those like me who hoped to see if  Michael Clarke could reach 300, he added only six before Morkel uprooted his middle stump. Still 230/257b (1x6, 40x4) was a considerable achievement.

South Africa were batting for four overs before lunch, which Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen  survived. After the interval they batted on mostly comfortably against an Australian attack which, while never as ragged as the South African one was at times on D1, was more steady than menacing on a wicket which is still playing well (though Nathan Lyon was able to extract some bounce and spin). It wasn't too much of a surprise when the first wicket, Petersen's for 54/112b (7x4), came from a run out, though it was when the second, Hashim Amla's for 11, came from a stumping off David Warner's spin.

Through these incidents and beyond Smith batted solidly towards a century, which he duly (and deservedly) achieved. His 111* /220b (12x4) may not have been in the aggressive Clarke-Warner-Hussey mould, but it has, with Morkel's bowling in the first session, both saved South Africa's face and kept them in the match.

 Today was low 30s hot, and tomorrow is expected to be even hotter. Smith, who has been on the field for the entire match so far, will needless to say have to stay at the crease as long as possible  to marshal the rest of his team's batting (including Jacques Kallis, who cannot, because of a bizarre rule for injured players, bat higher than number 7). There's still plenty of time left to obtain a result, though another good day for the visitors will increase the likelihood of a draw.

Scorecard <'a>

Australia's batting juggernaut hammers weak South African attack: T2D1

Australia 5/482 (86.5 ov, Clarke 224*, Warner 119, Hussey 103) v South Africa; T2/2 D1/5 at Adelaide.
A very good (and typical).Adelaide cricket season day, sunny and temperature in upper 20s.

The Oval surrounds are, because of redevelopment construction, far from typical, though the playing area, notwithstanding some downsizing as part of the redevelopment, looked (and turned out to be) its usual billiard table self.

So when Michael Clarke won the toss it followed that Australia would bat. And bat rhey did, recovering aggressively from the loss of three early wickets and taking advantage of South Africa's bowling injury woes (Vernon Philander, out before the toss, and Jacques Kallis,  2/19 before he was sidelined in the first session) and ineptitude to post a huge 5/482.
David Warner 119/112b (4x6, 16x4) made the early running with a characteristic innings, then Clarke 224*/ 243b (1x6, 39x4) and Mike Hussey 103/ 137b (4x6, 9x4) kept the ball rolling to all parts of the ground.

3/55 became 3/102 at lunch before some hard to fathom bowling changes (none involving Dale Steyn) helped open the floodgates: 108 runs from 12.2 overs in the first hour, 178 from 26 for the session. And then another 202 from 35.5 in the long final session.

So much for the stats. While each of the three century makers had a little bit of good fortune in addition to the weakened opposition attack, their batting was superb. Each of us who were present would have some special memories of the many to choose from. For me it was Clarke hitting five fours from one Morne Morkel over: most of them beautifully and classically driven along the ground.

For supporters of  Australia and cricket lovers in general, a day to remember. For South African supporters, a day, if not to forget, at least to hope that there is no repetition, or anything approaching it, for the rest of this brief series (and beyond).