Cape Town – The problem with having such a cowed, horrendous
first day’s play in a Test match is just how immense an effort is required to
reverse the damage.
South Africa were
excellent on day two of the second Test against Australia ... yes, it was quite
some fightback by the No 1-ranked side who appear to have woken from their
relative tour slumber.
But as commentator and former Test player HD Ackerman
correctly noted afterwards: “There’s still some way to go to get this match on
VIDEO: Australia v South Africa: 2nd Test Day 2 Highlights
Ordinary, a team mopping up the last five wickets of the
opposition first innings for the addition of just 68 runs and then advancing to
217 for two themselves would be widely assumed to mean some sort of position of
The Proteas’ admirable defiance and belligerence, though yet
to give them the luxury of lifting a feeling of vulnerability, only
demonstrated the extent to which they had been taken to the cleaners on
Still, South African supporters will happily bank small
mercies, and the team could hardly have done more to begin to fix their damaged
hull, in truth.
Keeping them on the edge of their seats more than they would
like is the infuriating way in which the tourists surrendered a well-set Alviro
Petersen to a run-out and then the normally rock-like Hashim Amla shuffling
down the track to inconsistent part-time bowler David Warner.
Bearing in mind that the ability of injured Jacques Kallis
to bat further down the order with any semblance of comfort remains a great and
potentially crucial unknown, the Proteas have many miles yet to travel at the first-knock
crease before they can claim security and serenity.
As Morne Morkel, who began the Friday bounce-back with his
salvo of wickets to clinch a five-wicket haul, pointed out at the post-play
press conference, the oft-branded middle “moving day” may be instrumental in
determining how this currently high-scoring, but swift-moving Test will pan
The first objectives are for Graeme Smith, the
ever-scrapping South African captain who revels in adversity, to convert his
already-posted 26th century into a significantly bigger one, and to
collectively get past the follow-on avoidance target of 351 with a tidy
cupboard of wickets still in reserve.
From a very young age in the Test arena, the left-handed
“Biff” got into a healthy little habit of kicking on once at the three-figure
mark – his first four successive centuries at this level were amazingly 200,
151, 277 and 259.
There has not been quite such extended weight to more recent
tons, but Smith is also old and wise enough to realise that the Adelaide Oval
pitch is offering desperately little to the faster men and may only do so as unevenness
creeps in from the fourth day or thereabouts.
If he can keep handling the off-spinner Nathan Lyon with
aplomb, a significant extension to his vigil seems perfectly feasible.
As it is, the hefty customer has already dragged his Test
batting average just back over the 50-mark at 50.04, which is cause for
For people who like to latch onto positive omens through
statistics, it is a much-publicised fact that South Africa have not yet lost a
Test where Smith has registered a century – even if Australians will be keener
to venture that records are simply there to be broken.
And those of superstitious nature will be either nervous or
delighted, depending on their national affiliation, that Smith (111 not out)
overnighted on the dreaded Nelson and with his team 333 runs still in arrears.
It is the stuff that would have given late umpire David
The skipper was being troubled by an old drawback, cramping,
as the apparently sweltering Friday wore on, but he is the kind of figure who
almost seems to get his motivation out of any additional hardship anyway.
On that note, back home an old buddy – retired Test
wicketkeeper Mark Boucher (@markb46) -- was quick to tweet his admiration for
the claw-back: “Lots of other teams would have folded! We still there fighting
after a tough 1st day! Well led by Biffy! We showing good character
He also gave his sixpence on the cramping topic: “Got to
love past cricketers saying u cramp cos u not fit! AB (de Villiers) is the
fittest there’s ever been and he suffers from cramp at times. Explain?”
It was certainly a day where South African cricket-lovers,
broadly, seemed to recover their voices ...
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writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing