Australia in SA

Proteas shoved right out of ring

2014-02-14 22:40
AB de Villiers (Gallo Images)

Centurion – Wobbling against the ropes? South Africa have been so outmuscled after three days of the first Test against Australia at SuperSport Park here that they’ve virtually been dumped into the ringside chairs.

SA v Oz - Day 3 as it happened

The best attendance of the game – especially if they are folk of lingering faith -- is expected for day four on Saturday; there is a nasty chance they’ll be pitching up for a funeral.

The position of the No 1-ranked team in the world could hardly be more parlous, suggesting that if they are to somehow pull off one of their renowned rescue acts, this may have to be the one to top the lot.

It is scary to think what sort of carrot – if that is the right word? – Michael Clarke may decide to dangle in front of counterpart Graeme Smith’s scarred troops for their fourth innings examination of mettle in major adversity.

The target, nominally perhaps, looks like being somewhere in the region of 500 to 530.

Of greater interest to the South Africans will be that they could be faced with around five and a half sessions and some 170-odd potential overs just to eke out an unlikely draw.

Of course there is always the possibility of Highveld weather intervention, although forecasts at present indicate that the blood-smelling tourists should be minimally obstructed in that regard.

Many of the current Proteas crop are well-versed in gritty rearguard action, and that is a beacon of hope to cling to.

At the same time, it is a daunting thought that they may well be required to fare even better in working a miracle than they did against, say, India at the Wanderers a few weeks ago: then they negotiated 136 overs (and registered 450 for seven) for a stalemate.

Last season, of course, Faf du Plessis batted 466 monumental minutes for an unbeaten century as South Africa saw off 148 overs to salvage another praiseworthy share of the spoils, against these very foes, at Adelaide.

Yes, this particular attempt to stop the ship from sinking might have to eclipse both prior occasions for durability.

 And with a certain Mitchell Johnson already sporting first-innings figures of seven for 68 and banking bodily strikes as well on an increasingly uneven surface, you’d be a brave punter to think the Proteas will wriggle off the hook.

Frankly, the home team looked a strangely motley crew in the field on Friday, something that also doesn’t augur too well for the salvation quest.

Generally fumbling and error-prone, they gave crucial lives to David Warner, the dangerous left-hander who instead went on his traditionally merry old way to a century: had substitute Dean Elgar held a clear-cut chance in the deep when Warner was on 26, it would have meant the batsman’s relatively cheap dismissal for a second time in the Test.

Whatever happens in the remainder of this one, the blond bomber now goes to Port Elizabeth fuelled with personal confidence rather than a possible hint of self-doubt.

He won’t be the only Aussie to do so, especially as debutant Alex Doolan at No 3 knuckled down for a patient and adhesive 89 – another box the Baggy Greens will gleefully tick as batsmen and bowlers alike rattle up handy mental advantages in the greater series context over South African counterparts.

AB de Villiers, one of few Proteas players to currently be able to hold his head high after his major role in at least avoiding the follow-on, fronted honestly at the post-match media briefing.

“Aussie have dominated for pretty much the entire Test so far, which is very disappointing.

“With ball in hand I was quite disappointed with the session after lunch ... I felt our intensities weren’t as good as they should be. After tea we were pretty much behind the eight-ball so what happened there was largely self-explanatory ... very bad day from us.

“We will need more than a big fight tomorrow (Saturday) and on day five. We’re certainly not going to give up, (even if) there’s only one team playing in this Test at the moment and it’s not us.

“Giving up just doesn’t exist in the team culture we’ve created over the last few years ... I’m certainly prepared to give it my best shot; we know the declaration can’t be too far away.

“The wicket is misbehaving here and there, but once you get through the new ball, which is very important – something we couldn’t do in the first innings – it gets a lot easier.”

De Villiers confessed that the Proteas had fielded well below known standards.

“After lunch the fielding was one of the factors that made me feel almost embarrassed ... very, very disappointed with the way we both fielded and bowled at times. There was just no intensity, which is not like us.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  ozinsa  |  ab de villiers  |  cricket
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