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.

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.


No comments: