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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>
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