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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.

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