23 February 2014

2nd Test, South African versus Australia

Facebook posts for each days play for the 2nd Test. The series is level at 1-1, Newland's is set to be a world cricket clash of spectacular heights! Day 5 through to thoughts on day 1.

Well done to Chris Rogers and David Warner for fighting so well to keep us in the contest to go to day 5. Sadly their efforts were null and void after our other batsmen showed zero fight. Our batsmen were terrible on a decent track. Apologies for negativity, it is not my thing, but that was horrible stuff and let down Davey and Bucky big time.

Kudos to the Proteas. They batted with pure class and delivered some special magic, notably Dale Steyn to kill our other batsmen in the final session.

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1st Test, Day 4, South Africa versus Australia, St Georges Park

Result: South Africa won by 231 runs. Series level 1-1

To write I am disappointed right now is an understatement. I am absolutely furious and fuming on the inside! 

This game was loaded with opportunities to showcase our team character and culture Darren Lehman has been working so hard on, and we gifted them all away. However, I will always be a good sport and can write well done to the Proteas after they did something magical to take the match. Series is level, one game to go. 

I am so angry because Chris Rogers (107) and David Warner's (66) efforts were pissed away and their fight totally pointless - null and void. 

They set a stand of 126 runs, perfect to lay down a foundation for the run chase and easily stay in the contest until day 5. However, not one other batsman made double figures. Terrible stuff. 

Not much more I want to add right now, but our 1st innings performance killed us. It ruined any momentum our bowlers could have sucked up with such a high deficit and this was a track to make over 300 runs, good for batting. We didn't achieve it once. 

Sorry for the negativity, I am usually not the one to be so, but after the way our openers played (especially David Warner this Test) it was a let down for two players who showed how Australia fight. Gutted, not what I expect from this team. 

We can take the battle to Newland's for what is set to be a world cricket spectacular clash. Catch it! Still back the boys. 

There was two things I pointed out after our batting collapse on day 2. The first is a positive regarding Chris Rogers, the second regarding Shaun Marsh - the pattern returns. 

"Chris Rogers, sadly, continues to be a bit of a walking wicket, but I have this odd feeling he may pull it together in the 2nd innings. If South Africa use the excuse they take a while to crank up in a series, I will use this for Rogers, given this has been his trend upon a career return."

"Shaun Marsh was gone for a quacker the very next ball playing away from his body, which by his character could very well mean a huge confidence drop now and some worrying trends to follow. I hope not, but history strongly suggests this."
2nd Test, day 3, South Africa versus Australia, St. Georges Park

South Africa lead us by 369 runs, 6 wickets in hand, two days play remaining with possible showers for the final day. 

It's win or lose for me, I am not interested in a draw as it means we can still tie the series with South Africa, as good as a loss in my eyes given how well we played in the 1st Test. Standards mowed down this Test, with the emphasis on winning the toss really standing out now at this ground. 

A draw here does mean we could win 2-0, but I want to see this game through. A grand challenge set for our guys.

I anticipate South Africa would, to make a game of it, go hard at us for the first session, see Hashim Amla get his century (a top effort given he has a dislocated finger) and then they will try knock us over. 

I see these scenarios as a challenge and to really see which players have that fighting spirit. We have thrown away a grand opportunity on this track with our 1st innings top order performances, but our lower order did ensure we avoided the follow-on, although I doubt it would have been enforced with the Proteas one bowler down. 

Steven Smith was the only real positive yesterday and I was livid with his decision. It's a tough one cause the snicko may very well have been the edge, but is it enough? Probably too minimal a piece of evidence, but I was gutted after Stevo had not really been hassled all that much. His stroke play against Dale Steyn was first class, just great batting to witness.

Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris both fought hard to keep knocking runs off that lead and that was admirable of our paceman to do a job they shouldn't have needed too. It was always too big a task. 

A few loose shots too from David Warner and Nathan Lyon, even Brad Haddin who was foxed against in-swing from Dale Steyn that had been evident for the previous three balls. Not sure how Hads fell into that trap, especially leaving such a wide gap as if he played without anticipating any swing at all. Most peculiar. 

Peter Siddle has stepped up this innings, as Ryan Harris went at over 5 an over. Sids has 2-53, while Mighty Mitch has 2-48 - removing Graeme Smith again. Awesome! 

Not really much we can do tomorrow but just keep trying to see if we can find a few more wickets, kill their momentum and see if we can deliver with the bat from our top order. 

200 runs from the top four would be a fantastic platform given the depth of our batting, but the lead is now in quite a daunting position as it is. 

Rain can ensure a draw is called come day 5, meaning South Africa could only draw the series if this Test brings no result. As for us, we can still tie the series if they were to win in Cape Town, where they have been us in our last two encounters there (2009, 2011). 

A win would give us a win, but ultimately if this result goes their way it is going to be one hell of a showdown. Still two days to go, still backing the boys to fight and claw their way out of this.

2nd Test, day 2, South Africa vs Australia, St. Georges Park. 

You'd have to feel we've thrown away a good opportunity in terms of our batting on this track, with 4 wickets down and just 112 runs on the board. We trail the Proteas by 311 runs, 6 wickets in hand, 3 days of play remaining. 

There was nothing in it for the bowlers and AB de Villiers and JP Duminy played with admirable focus and concentration to take advantage of the great batting track. AB brought up a century that was well deserved, while Duminy resuscitated his career. 

The Proteas found ways to make the track work for them. 

Wayne Parnell took two wickets in his first over, with Alex Doolan caught behind - rarely the first of the match. The ball was still in good condition and found enough carry. 
Shaun Marsh was gone for a quacker the very next ball playing away from his body, which by his character could very well mean a huge confidence drop now and some worrying trends to follow. I hope not, but history strongly suggests this. 

The very good news for us is that David Warner is still fighting as hard as ever out there (65*) and Nathan Lyon played with as much fight to still be there with 12* runs to his name as he came in as Nightwatchman. 

Chris Rogers, sadly, continues to be a bit of a walking wicket, but I have this odd feeling he may pull it together in the 2nd innings. If South Africa use the excuse they take a while to crank up in a series, I will use this for Rogers, given this has been his trend upon a career return. 

All in all, this track is dull and South Africa made inroads with the new ball just as we did, but found far more in it with some local experience in Parnell. As everyone says now, credit to them. 

It will be a very, very challenging day tomorrow and the boys need our support. They had The Proteas in a tough position, but one partnership knocked us back a few yards. 

It's now about believing in them to make up for that lost ground. Steven Smith and Brad Haddin will fight and once again Brad Haddin is in a situation which brings out the best of his competitive spirit. The difference is our opponent has good runs on the scoreboard. It's good to have our backs against the wall. 

Day 3 will be the biggest challenge we've had since Brisbane. Lets smash it! Come on Baggy Greens!

2nd Test, day 1, South Africa versus Australia, St. Georges Park. 

A good performance from our boys. Very little in this track, low carry to the keeper and little swing on offer too with both the new and worn out ball. 

Michael Clarke had to regularly work his changes and shape his tactics, which in the end were nearly more effective than they could have been. 

All in all our start was fantastic to fox Smith and Amla to LBWs, but was always going to be hard grafting out there if batsmen showed better patience and determination, which Elgar, du Plessis, and de Villiers displayed. 

We have them 5 wickets down now and the day probably edged slightly in our favour with the wicket of Quinton de Kock in the evening before stumps were called early. Still very balanced right now this match. 

A strong first session vital with AB still at the crease and in grand form. Don't see this track offering us too many delights, so we may need that same insane burst of fire and momentum as we saw here in Adelaide during the 2nd Ashes Test. 

All in all I am quite pleased with our performance, with the toss going against us too which was an important one to win. 

Day 2 awaits.

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21 February 2014

2nd Test, South Africa versus Australia

Due to time constraints with work I am unable to post more thorough, detailed match analysis and opinions here at the site for the 2nd Test. I am still backing the boys and trying to spread the never give-in support philosophy. They need it this Test, after a challenging day 2 that went in South Africa's favour.

Quick updates will be posted at the Baggy Green Supporters Blog Facebook page, so interact there.

Third Test will be covered here.

Welcome to The Baggy Green Blog!
Thanks for reading this article written by Ian.
To comment on this article, click on the 'Comments' tag at the end of the article.


15 February 2014

South Africa versus Australia, 1st Test, day 4

Australian 1st innings: 397 all out
Shaun Marsh 1
48, Steven Smith 100
ale Steyn 4-78

South African 1st innings:
206 all out
AB de Villiers 52*
Mitchell Johnson
7-68, Nathan Lyon 2-38

Australian 2nd innings: 4/290 declared
David Warner 115, Alex Doolan 89, Shaun Marsh 44

South African 2nd innings: 200 all out (Target 482)
AB de Villiers 48
Mitchell Johnson 5-59, Ryan Harris 2-35

Mitchell Johnson started the Ashes series with 205 wickets from 51 Tests.

After this Test he now has 254 wickets from 57 Tests, 49 wickets added to the collection. This Test match he has taken a career-best 12 wickets, a phenomenal achievement and done so against the number one ranked side. It was all too easy against England? I think the hard answers were smashed into the grills of the pessimists as Mitchell Johnson delivered another scary spell against the Proteas, the most fearsome since the 90s. Remember it, embrace it!

It was no surprise these scintillating performances with the ball earned Mitch the Man of the Match award (the 9th award in his Test career). Of his last 6 Tests he has claimed the award four times.

The spells were frightening, devastating, and more than enough to put Mitchell Johnson into the ranks as one of the most fearsome bowlers in the history of the game. I hope viewers realise what they saw this summer and in this game against South Africa. It rarely comes along and when it does it should be engraved into your memory banks. This game reminded me of his spell at Kingsmead, Durban, 2009. Initially that is. Well done Mitch.

Besides Mitch, the difference was evident. Our batsmen showed that gritty determination on display during the Ashes. The result was three centurions at Centurion (Shaun Marsh 148, Steven Smith 100, David Warner 115), a debutant who held his nerve superbly (Alex Doolan 27, 89), a bowling unit who presented synergy amongst some minor fatigue, and fielding standards carried on from where they were raised to the highest of benchmarks over the Australian summer.

Chris Rogers will be the one man who will feel disappointed with his output. He never looked settled and struggled to showcase the patience and caution he usually displays to see off the new ball. It was uncharacteristic and I hope to see a stronger performance from him.

The day started off though with the Proteas batsmen surely knowing they'd have a rough time out there. Variable bounce, good pace off the track, and a bowling attack ready for the kill.

Morne Morkel was terrific with the ball as the day began, but simply demonstrated to Michael Clarke what the track had to offer for day 4 and lead to a very quick declaration. Shaun Marsh didn't add to his overnight score of 44, but his simple prod at the ball to get caught behind indicated there was little intention to go out to claim more runs to the already monstrous lead. With Morkel's demo done, Clarkey called for the declaration and the proceedings began for The Baggy Greens to take the win, draw first blood of the 3-match Test series.

It didn't take long. Alviro Petersen has been playing away from his body, a trigger movement to his leg stump, and Mitchell Johnson hasn't let him settle. His dismissal was inevitable with this technique, very well analysed by Shaun Pollock in the commentary box versus the way AB de Villiers handled himself.

Alex Doolan had a brilliant debut. Besides his composure of day 3, his catches taken at short leg were freakish to say the least. The most bizarre factor was the way he actually got his hands into a position to take the catches. It didn't just seem to be pure reflex, but someone with freakish reflexes who instinctively went for the catch. Simon Katich was very good in the position, as was the original player I watched under the helmet - David Boon. Alex Doolan has quickly taken a likening to the role and helped Mitch grab two wickets, the big one of Graeme Smith and then JP Duminy.

Mitchell's damage of the day was that of his wicket taking. However, physical intimidation included smashing a bouncer into Hashim Amla's grill, first ball which nearly took his helmet straight off.

Ryan McClaren had ducked and weaved quite well until he ducked into a fast ball back of a length from Mitch. It bashed into the side of his head and drew blood from his ear. The battle is exciting, but it is a bit sickening when something like that happens. Even the bowler who executes the pain doesn't like it, but that is the game and that is the job of the intimidator. Cricket is a tough game and a red ball coming at you around 150km/h is terrifying.

After the break, McClaren was dismissed shortly after and would have been quite pleased to get off the ground and ease the pounding in his head. Hope he recovers okay. 

Vernon Philander took a delivery onto his finger, then his bat broke.

Mitchell's job was done with another 5 wickets in the bag. Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle finished proceedings. Both of them have done a grand job this Test, nothing too flash or overly effective, but that effectiveness has come from tight bowling with little pressure release from their duties. Both looked a little down on energy but I still have high expectations of these two experienced campaigners.

Sids was able to vary the seam and get variable bounce off the track, especially with fuller paced bowling, while Ryano was like a metronome. This output gave him the reward of Hashim Amla's wicket. Craig McDermott's 101 plan.

The victory came in good time, with the boys having one day extra to rest their bodies, clear their minds and prepare for a quick turnaround before the Test down in Port Elizabeth.

Since South Africa's readmission into sports only one Test has been played in PE, St George's Park, which we won. Mark Waugh took the Man of the Match award after a century which ensured we were able to squeeze out a victory by 2 wickets. I remember it very well.

It's a good vibe when games get played at St. George's. Usually there's a band belting out some regular anthems and it should make the atmosphere at the smaller ground a good advertisement in a big clash for both sides. We look to take the series, South Africa look to stay alive.

So, it the next venue has some history in our favour as the boys will fight hard to go 2-0 up and claim another Test series in South Africa. Newland's hasn't been a good hunting ground for us, but we ended South Africa's good run at Centurion and have gained momentum to go 1-0 up.

Tough work ahead still in my opinion and I hope our bowlers rest up well to be ready to do it all again on Thursday.

Proud to write we took each day of this Test. Very happy.

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14 February 2014

South Africa versus Australia, 1st Test, day 3

Australian 1st innings: 397 all out
Shaun Marsh 1
48, Steven Smith 100Dale Steyn 4-78

South African 1st innings:
206 all out
AB de Villiers 52*
Mitchell Johnson
7-68, Nathan Lyon 2-38

Australian 2nd innings: 3/288 from 69.0 overs
David Warner 115, Alex Doolan 89, Shaun Marsh 44*

The match situation now reads that we lead by 479 runs, 7 wickets in hand, two days of play remaining.

If you watched the game last night, you would have noticed South Africa began to disintegrate in the field, with their high standards plummeting. Misfields, overthrows, drop catches (three off David Warner's blade), and body language that showed they will only play for a draw now, despite AB de Villiers stating their team culture is to never give up, although I believe this is a trait belonging almost solely to him. Recent history indicates this too. The match is ours for the taking now, but against a top side it still requires immense hard work not just for these final two days, but another two Tests. Clinical execution required.

Mighty Mitch, yep, he did it again.

Mitchell Johnson's 7 wicket haul will go down as another one of his spells to remember. Since the Ashes, Mitchell's figures have read as follows: 4/61, 5/42, 7/40, 1/73, 2/62, 4/78, 5/63, 3/25, 3/33, 3/40 and now 7/68.

Whether it remains short or medium term for Mitchell, it will go down as one of the greatest spells for a fast bowler in this history of the game - and this patch of his as a golden run. Mitch will be remembered for his frightening spells and his mental strength to come back from a nightmare run. Embrace what you are witnessing. I have watched cricket for over 20 years to know these performances are a rarity. Michael Holding gave Mitch plenty of praise, and when one of the great fast bowlers of the game gives that recognition, you know it means something massive.

Well done Mitchy! Hope our other bowlers can back him up in the second dig. It's needed to get all 10 wickets. Mitch is also going to be on a hat-trick with his first delivery in the innings, after claiming AB de Villiers (for 91 excellent runs) for delivery 59.6, and Morne Morkel for a golden duck in over 61.1.

South Africa got off to a perfect start to remove Chris Rogers in Dale Steyn's first over. Chris didn't look comfortable at all in the 1st innings either, oddly not handling the pace and additional bounce, odd given his WACA background. He played a strange shot to chop one onto his stumps, a rising delivery back of a length from Steyn. 1/1 was our score and you could sense many South African supporters murmuring about the 47 all out day. Not this time.

David Warner scored his 6th Test century, amidst some luck due to low fielding standards, and Alex Doolan held his own mighty well in his second Test innings to score 89 runs. They brought up the record second wicket partnership at Centurion (passing the record set by South Africa against us in 1996/7) totaling 205 runs. Only double-century partnership after Shaun Marsh and Steven Smith's efforts.

Davey's straight bat shots were powerful, his cross bat shots quick and crisp, while his running between the wickets was as fast as ever. High energy helped fatigue the South African fielders, which Doolan assisted from his end.

Davey appeared as relaxed as ever, offering plenty of smiles, acknowledging the luck he had until he settled into a cruise control gear and belted away his opposition. 13 fours and 2 sixes added to his total, with his innings giving more of a psychological dampener on the South African parade, as opposed to the simple score line advancement.

Prior to the innings getting underway, I noted on The Baggy Green Blog Facebook page: "
David Warner due a decent innings here. Come on boys, steady now, no panic." Glad my forecast materialised. It was a gut feeling Davey's confidence would suit the match situation.

Alex Doolan was patient to the point the commentators (a select few) were noting his low strike rate. It didn't matter given the collectivity of the two batsmen as they kept knocking South Africa out the match. It was a Test innings, patience, caution, playing to ones strengths. It was a number three's knock Alex played. The only fault was that he didn't get a century he deserved after his application. Once he was settled he drove the ball, cut it, and corrected his pull shot technique - which brought his downfall for 27 on day 1.

There's an element to Doolan's game reminding me of Damien Martyn. Still trying to put my finger on what it is exactly, but it's there and that is a very, very good sign. Well done Alex, outstanding performance on debut, high pressure, and against the number 1 Test side.

The question we have now is should Shane Watson be fit, does Doolan make way, or Shaun Marsh, who scored 148 in the 1st innings and is currently 44* not out - his previous best against The Proteas?

History indicates selectors have no issue casting aside someone even if in form. It was last done when Brad Hodge filled in for Michael Clarke during the Caribbean tour of 2008, 1st Test. Hodgey scored a half-century and had a very good game. Clarkey made his way over for the 2nd Test, and Hodgey made way. He never played a Test again for Australia.

I can only see validity to select Watto on the basis he can bowl and the importance of us having the additional seamer, but there's intense competition now based on Doolan and Marsh stepping up. It will put some pressure on Watto, which is what he needs. His competitive nature should accept the challenge. I feel strongly that his selection can only be tactical given what we've witnessed from these two batsmen. 

Well, that would seem our biggest worry right now. Two days of play remain and we have a lead closing in on 500 runs. South Africa will fight for a draw, they will make us work bloody hard to win from here, but we've given ourselves the best possible chance to do so. The follow-on was avoided, so that plan was scrapped, even though Clarkey won't ever impose it. Rain would seem the biggest obstacle in our way right now.

I look forward to the challenge and how our boys further lift the intensity and energy out there. Elite fielding standards are a must, as we saw the effect it can have when not at the highest of standards. Day 4 will begin with us declaring and taking to the field, or Clarkey and Marsh just there to bully The Proteas a bit longer to get a lead over 500 runs.

Verdict: We take day 3 too. We're a step closer to 1-0.

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13 February 2014

South Africa versus Australia, 1st Test, day 2

Australian 1st innings: 397 all out
Shaun Marsh 1
48, Steven Smith 100Dale Steyn 4-78

South African 1st innings:
6/140 from 43.3 overs
AB de Villiers 52*
Mitchell Johnson 4-51

After our innings was brought to an end, there would have been a good sense of achievement for the Proteas after our day began at 4/297.  Only 100 runs were added to our overnight score for the loss of our final 6 wickets. Their momentum was quickly crushed as the day progressed.

Despite the minimal addition of runs given the context of our innings, Steven Smith brought up his fourth Test century in his first Test match against South Africa. A remarkable achievement against such a good bowling attack, especially given the situation when he initially came to the crease.

His patience was notable, his straight bat shots really impressed me. It would seem he lost his concentration upon reaching the milestone, but judging by his annoyance as he walked off the Centurion turf, he knew it all too well and this is an area of improvement Smithy can address. Well done youngster!

Shaun Marsh would have had a great nights sleep after day 1, with a century in the bag and plenty of pressure easing off him, given the circumstances for his selection and what he was up against in the quick build up to this fixture. He departed for 148 runs, but left the middle with his highest Test score and one of monumental importance for us starting this series. Now for consistency to be sought after, a word that doesn't really fit into Shaun's rather all over the show career. I hope this series he finds it.

Despite the batting, our lower order were able to push things a fair bit, with Mitchell Johnson finding some early confidence against a team he loves to bat against. He scored 33 runs and having looked into some stats, I found it interesting to observe that Mitchell's most prolific series with the ball have usually started off with some confidence with the bat in hand. Judging by his bowling performance, it seems to have that logic behind the saying that cricket is predominantly a psychological game.

It didn't take Mitch long to give the South African audience an idea just how fast he is bowling and how confidently he is delivering right now. Watching him live at the Adelaide Oval during the Ashes, I was fascinated how much pace he drawing off a very sluggish drop in wicket. He was brutal then.

Centurion offers more for a bowler and his delivery to remove Faf du Plessis was just over 150 km/h. It was a thrill to watch and to hear Michael Holding declare that it was true fast bowling, frightening pace at that, was enough encouragement.

Things started off with Mitch getting the wicket of Graeme Smith with just his fourth delivery. A sharp bouncer that had Smith tangled. The ball smashed into his glove and Shaun Marsh took a beauty of a catch running back from his slip position to dive and grasp the catch. Smith gone, a hand nearly broken.

I was interested to see Smith's preparation before Mitch bowled too him. He took his time, getting down on his haunches and staring down the pitch. Definitely some fear in his mind - and I can't fault him for that. When Mitch was ready, Smith wasn't. He was greeted with a ball just back of a length that darted on him as he tried to glance it down leg side. It didn't take long for the pace to see the end of him. Big wicket!

With that confidence, Alviro Petersen was caught behind just flashing at one wide of his body, getting a clean edge to end his innings. The pace once again played a role, as it did so with the dismissal of Faf du Plessis who seemed to only spot the ball as it rocketed into his gloves. The catch to Michael Clarke was too simple, taken, and the ball hauled into the air as our Adelaide nemesis was gone.

With three wickets down, The Proteas two best batsmen found some ground. Hashim Amla is always the danger man in my eyes, with AB de Villiers able to play a lonesome role amidst chaos. That was definitely the case for AB. His only blunder was a short ball from Mitch which he mistimed and experienced the pain of the ball thumping into his right forearm. No doubt there will be a bruise when he wakes up. Hasn't taken Mitch long to bring about some bruises.

While AB went about his job in stylish composure, no one really offered him substantial support.

Hashim Amla was plumb LBW to Peter Siddle, with Aleem dar only rejecting the decision possibly due to the double sound of both pads being hit, and not bat/ pad as he likely initially thought. Well reviewed by Clarkey and we had the danger man, and Pedro was on the wicket taking list. He has a big role of importance this series come pressure bowling. He needs to be on the money to tie down the batsmen.

Mitchell's last wicket of the day was that of Ryan McClaren. He was the last victim of the day outdone by blistering pace. The gap between bat and pad was ridiculous and an indicator how fast that delivery was. He couldn't handle it and was on his way, off stump uprooted.

JP Duminy offered some support but took on Nathan Lyon, mishit the shot and Mighty Mitch took a screamer at mid off. He's taken some highly athletic catches in that position, as well as mid on. Elite fielding standards have been on display again, and as we saw against England, it can seriously be the difference between the winner and the loser. The Proteas have high standards, so don't dismiss high quality fielding this series.

Ryan Harris wasn't as effective as I thought he would be on this track, but with just four wickets to go, I believe he will be extremely important to try knock over the Proteas tail.

With AB still out there, we still have a lot of work to do, but with 4 wickets in our way before we bat again and a lead 257 runs in the bag with three days of play remaining, I hope to see our guys find the opportunities to get the job done swiftly and effectively.

Day 2 was brought to stumps due to rain, the last ball a short delivery at Robin Peterson. He would have been relieved to trot back to the Pavilion.

Verdict: Up the Baggy Greens! Day one and day two secured as ours. Still three of the Test remaining, but the boys have given themselves the best opportunity to stay on top of this Test. Well done Mitch!

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12 February 2014

South Africa versus Australia, 1st Test, day 1:

Australian 1st innings: 4/297 from 90.0 overs
Shaun Marsh 122*, Steven Smith 91*Dale Steyn 2-54

South Africa won the toss and Graeme Smith elected to bowl first.

When Shaun Marsh was dropped on 12 by Hashim Amla, diving to his left at gully, our selectors were probably the most relieved men in the cricket world. As he changed gears he showcased the class we all know he is capable of displaying, and repaid the faith from the selectors to score his second Test century, his first since his debut two and a half years ago in Sri Lanka. 

Based on selection for Test cricket, Shaun hadn't ticked all the boxes
, which I was skeptical about and it takes a bit for me to think otherwise of any player, especially one who has a Test century and bats with real class when in form.
However, even though a player needs luck, he now has 122 runs under his belt and stepped up immensely when we so badly needed it. At 2-24 when he came out, it could have been a collapse orchestrated for Brad Haddin to save. Instead we're 4/297.
The Proteas would have been on their toes to take all 10 wickets of ours on day 1, usually the objective when you decide to bowl first. Instead they only managed four, which just backed Michael Clarke's intentions to have had a bat either way.

Well done Shaun!

Prior to this game, he was cast out with
a calf muscle injury having been named in the original squad. Shane Watson was then ruled out with injury, and following the Big Bash final (won by the Perth Scorchers who Marsh represents) he was recalled to the side. He arrived in South Africa on Sunday and, according to Steven Smith, may still very well be working through a last bit of jetlag. This little back story is a list of reasons as to why this century is so important to our team, but to Shaun as well.

Phillip Hughes will
now feel the decision was well justified at present to go with Shaun. He seemed genuinely chuffed clapping on the sidelines as Shaun brought up his century. 

Steven Smith came of age during the 3rd Test at the WACA against England, but this was another sign of the mans game maturing to an elite level. Reminding me a fair bit of Steve Waugh's career trends. 

He has 91* and the way himself and Shaun handled the second new ball (from what I managed to see) was outstanding. They have a partnership of 199 runs
with plenty of classy straight bat shots executed during this stand.

Smithy's running between the wickets was the highlight of the partnership for me. He pushed Shaun a fair bit but they worked hard and the energy in this respect was definitely noted. They were able to run hard and fatigue the South African fielders a fair bit as a result. 

Alex Doolan (Baggy Green #437) made his debut and managed 27 runs before pulling late on a delivery off the bowling of Ryan McClaren. If you've followed a fair bit of Alex's First class career, you will know this is a trend for him. Strong starts that don't convert. Having written this, the nerves must have been intense for him and I feel he handled it very well. Only his first chance, so we'll see how he handles it second time around. 

David Warner was aggressive and didn't take long to take a liking to Dale Steyn, who had a bit of a stomach issue. Davey's aggression was his downfall though as he chopped one on.

Chris Rogers, playing for the first time in South Africa (as well as visiting), never looked comfortable, especially against Vernon Philander's medium pacers. Morne Morkel removed him quickly. Hard to write this b
ut Chris seemed to be a bit of a walking wicket out there. I know he will bounce back but it seemed as if the occasion got to him a bit.

Chris will probably find his stride soon enough. Takes a while to get going. He has the experience to know where to improve. 

Graeme Smith seemed to make a
tactical decision at the toss, a decision which seemed justified when he had us at 3-72, knowing their batting depth isn't as deep as ours and our first innings inconsistencies seen in the Ashes were there to be exploited by his pack of bowlers, but Marsh and Smith had other plans. Our batting is the perceived weakness and I feel Smith wanted to expose this through his bowlers. 

Having also seen Robin Peterson and JP Duminy attempting to spin and get something from the track, there were a few moments where they actually found something there. Given Nathan Lyon is a far better bowler than either of them, I am eager to see if he can find something out there and tie down his end. I know the fast bowlers have had a lot of emphasis coming into this series, but I am eager to see how Gaz goes.

My final note of the day is how much I enjoyed Mitchell Johnson sitting with his feet up, just relaxing. The camera zoomed in on him, he realised it and he left the chair. He's been very quietly spoken this series, keeping to himself, which I really like. Mitch knows the game too well now, so it's all about action for him above words and reasoning.

Verdict: Day 1 goes to us, but there's still four days to go
against an opponent who enjoys a good fight.
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