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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