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Monday, February 17, 2014

Johnson again leads Australia to convincing win as S Africa fold on crumbling pitch: T1 D4

Australia 397 & 4/290 dec (72.2ov, Warner 115, Doolan 89, Marsh 44) def South Africa    206 & 200 (59.4ov, deVilliers 48, Amla 35, Johnson 16-3-59-5, Harris 2/35, Siddle 2/55) by 281 runs; T1/3 D4/5 at Centurion. Australia lead series 1-0.

It didn't take Michael Clarke long to decide that the pitch was continuing to deteriorate and therefore that Australia's lead was big enough. After 21 deliveries, 2 runs (a wide and a leg bye) and Shaun Marsh's wicket he declared, setting South Africa an unlikely 482 to win. While there's been a very recent example of this happening - Queensland chasing down 470 to beat South Australia by 5 wickets in a Sheffied Shield fixture- the state of the Centurion wicket, not to mention the quality of the Australia bowling (and fielding) consigned any such hope to the realm of dreams.

Yes, Australia bowled and caught well, with Mitchell Johnson again outstanding, but South Africa had no chance as the ball came through at varying heights. Faf duPlessis was lbw to a grubber then Hashim Amla and AB deVilliers toughed it out for a time, and there was some resistance from the lower order,but any result other than a win to the visitors never looked likely. If anything South Africa, after losing early wickets, did well to reach 200. 

So, a huge victory to Australia. How much was it magnified by Graeme Smith's decision to field first? He clearly misjudged the wicket's staying power, but in his decision there may have been an element of hubris, of we're much better than England, we're playing at home so we'll put the Aussies back in their box.  

The old cliche "a good toss to lose" certainly applied here, but the Proteas underperformed in spades. Some like duPlessis were unlucky in their dismissals but the bowling was below par - and that standard is now set by Australia.

So where to from here? It's hard to see Australia having another cushy victory such as this, and yet South Africa may be rattled after this crushing, and unexpected, loss. If Shane Watson is fit it will create a dilemma for the selectors, but I think he should play to provide a fifth bowling option, something which wasn't required at Centurion, is always handy against a team with batsmen of the stature of deVilliers and Amla.

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