We take a look at the fallout from the first Test between Australia and South Africa.
South Africa’s almost inconceivable victory in the first Test is truly worth some sustained reflection. Considering the general course of South African Test cricket over the last year and a half, few would have imagined this result conceivable following the travails of day one. They were then relegated to a two-prong seam attack that would rely on the devastating medium paced heroics of Temba Bavuma to help them through the second innings – a touch of sarcasm there but the little man did manage to pick op a crucial stick. How on earth did South Africa win this Test?
First things first, that Australian middle order has clearly not psychologically recovered from some of the scars incurred in Sri-Lanka. Their injudicious strokeplay – particularly against Maharaj – seemed to suggest a desperation that stank of post-Herath dementia.
Australia seem to be the continual victim of their own self-imposed mantra. That is that Australia have to play super positive cricket at all times. Passages in play are pointless unless you are constantly going for the jugular.
A bit of old-school Allan Border-esque resilience would have been preferable to gung-ho shot-making. David Warner is just a freak who has the ability to pick length from the first delivery and clear the boundary from the outset. His instincts should never be curtailed. But it just seems to be that – clearly evident in the Channel 9 commentary – there is an incessant need for the Australians to be positive regardless of the situation.
This Australian side just cannot bat out a day when victory is completely off the table. It is not within the fabric of their current DNA. They look down, in some way, on Faf’s marathon efforts in Adelaide in 2012. While they will never say it in polite company, behind closed doors you will no doubt hear whisperings of cowardice. The truth is, Faf’s masochistic vigil in Adelaide ultimately set the platform for the last tour victory. It drained the Australian attack and galvanized the South African side.
Even in this match, we heard similar utterances of defiance against any other way to play test cricket. The Australian commentators seemed amazed the South African’s would have the gall to try bat after lunch on day four, already possessing a four-hundred plus lead. The reason is simple: why not? There were still four and a half full sessions to play on a wearing pitch. South Africa were down one bowler and conceivably would like to toil as little as possible should wickets not tumble excessively. And there is the Warner factor. Should Warner have scored 150 off 170 balls, suddenly a 450 lead could look rather precarious, especially with the absence of Steyn.
Smith’s incredulity at his dismissal brought another aspect of the game into dispute, one that would be replicated in Marsh’s dismissal on the final day. Is the technology a hundred percent accurate? In the case of Smith, the evidence seems to suggest that the umpire was well within his rights to give him out. It just goes to show how many a batsman throughout the annals of cricket could utilize the charge down the pitch as an automatic defense mechanism.
In the case of Marsh however, I think that the technology has some way to go. Intuitively, it is fairly clear to me that the ball was likely missing leg stump with the reverse swing on offer. But the ball tracking doesn’t seem to account for the fact that the ball moves prodigiously more after contact.
Ultimately, South Africa delivered a team performance with nearly every player contributing to some degree. Amla has been a terrific player and his form should return.
Cook is one area of huge concern for me. He seemed to look even more out of sorts the longer he spent at the crease. He even struggled in the warm-up matches and perhaps the South African brains trust could do well to reshuffle their pack. Perhaps push Amla to open while bringing Roussouw into the mix would reap further dividends.
Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.