SA prosper on poignant day

2011-11-19 22:16

Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - South Africa are several essential steps closer to their first home series victory over Australia in the post-apartheid era, fittingly after a day which saw tributes pour in to the late Basil D’Oliveira, one of the country’s most iconic cricketing figures.

“Dolly”, who died in England aged 80 after a brave, marathon battle with Parkinson’s disease, may have been exiled to and then represented that country in 44 Tests, but he was a product of the Bo Kaap here and shared a magical centre stage at Newlands with Graeme Pollock for the opening of the 2003 World Cup on our soil – it was an occasion many would have viewed as confirmation of a satisfying lid being placed on a divided past for the game in South Africa.

And he would doubtless have approved richly of the standout, undeniably “new South African” pair of Indian-descent Hashim Amla and Afrikaner AB de Villiers navigating the Proteas out of some early second-innings peril and nearer to at least not losing the Wanderers final Test and thus securing the series.

With two full days to go and the Proteas 199 runs ahead with an assuring seven wickets in hand, a pendulum that has swung wildly over the course of the two contests could yet retain its tendency for unpredictability, of course.

But most critics would concur that Graeme Smith’s team are significantly in the driving seat as things stand, with the priceless, unbeaten fourth-wicket alliance of 139 in almost 42 overs of calm authority at the crease between Amla and De Villiers giving South African enthusiasts welcome heart on a sombre Saturday in certain respects.

As an overdue, healthy crowd of some 16 000 at the Bullring also took keenly to the pink theme of a cancer awareness day, the South African dressing room would have been a more upbeat place, probably, than the tired away-team one after early stumps once again as dark Highveld clouds rumbled in.

The meteorological aspect is not unimportant because the match, and by extension mini-series, is slowly unravelling time-wise – and it is the Australians, 1-0 down, who quite obviously need to secure as much further time as possible against lengthening odds in their quest to level matters.

Michael Clarke and company will be looking nervously, then, at some weather forecasts which suggest at least fitful rain and mostly overcast skies over the ground on Sunday, and the greater prospect of major downpours on day five.

The best they can do, against that perturbing backdrop, is retain their cricket focus and hope they can manufacture the kind of middle- and lower-order batting collapse both prior innings in this Test have been characterised by.

It is getting close to that requirement for them -- only teenage thunderbolt Pat Cummins looks as if he may be capable of engineering the task to any great degree -- as the history of successful fourth-knock chases at Wanderers suggests they may otherwise be seeking a record total when they eventually bat again.

The very same Australia are the team who boast the prior best winning feat at the venue, getting to 294 for eight to beat the Proteas in early April 2006, completing a fine 3-0 sweep toward the end of their golden era.

The only survivors from that triumphant XI who should get another stab at a fairly similar requirement will be the seriously out-of-touch Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, who got 89 on that occasion as a makeshift opener because Justin Langer was injured.

South Africa, meanwhile, will bank on Amla, who is closing in typically methodically on a 14th Test century and second really important second-dig one of the series, and De Villiers only continuing to push the Aussies toward the brink of series surrender.

They will know that there have been enough crazy fluctuations in this enthralling early-summer combat for nobody to confidently yet stake their house on either side prevailing in this fixture.

Both men brought a healthy dose of overdue, genuine Test-culture sanity back to batting proceedings at the Wanderers, looking more and more adhesive as day three wore on and choosing their scoring opportunities mostly very well.

The pitch is showing only rare hints – albeit strongly evident ones, when they do come – of influential break-up, so the remainder of the Proteas’ order must do everything they can to cash in before Australia are re-inserted.

Various factors, though, are conspiring to make the “equaliser” look less and less likely for the Baggy Greens.

Oops, having said that, maybe all South African supporters had better touch wood ...


  • David - 2011-11-19 22:29

    Hmmm, at last our batsmen seem to be getting over their 20/20 hangovers (lets ignore the reverse sweeps today). Much better application by Hash and AB. Really disappointing that only 2 scheduled tests!

  • Gareth - 2011-11-19 22:46

    Why don't they start the match an hour earlier tomorrow instead of the usual half an hour?The forecast ain't good either for Joburg as its suppose to rain over there tomorrow.The India-West Indies test series in India starts at 8.30 so why can't the officials in South Africa do the same sort of thing. Apparently broadcast arrangements and rights don't allow for that to happen which is rather stupid.The Wanderers ground was bathed in sunshine all of this morning so no problems there which is ideal playing surface for an even earlier kick off.South Africa needs to win this series 2-0 to close the gap on England for the number one test ranking position,and on today's evidence I can't see us being bowled out so as to not win the match.Anything towards a 280 total and beyond as a lead should be enough for South Africa I reckon and bowl Australia out the second time.

      Douglas - 2011-11-20 00:02

      Good comment, Tony. Have been saying that for years. For Pete's sake, guys, wake up, we want 90 overs a day, and unless you want to lose 20 a day for 5 days running, just start earlier. It's not rocket science, is it?? If broadcast arrangements stand in the way, could someone please explain the logic to me? Honestly. Oh, and whoever it was that gave the initial two posts a thumb-down, could you please explain what it was you found so disagreeable/offensive? I'd love to hear.

      Chris - 2011-11-20 05:20

      somethng to do with dew and moisture on the grounds? that was a feeble excuse some years ago

  • gazz.botha - 2011-11-20 01:30

    SA needs to good sessions to put another 230 on the score board, and give them selves a change to bowl Oz out about 140 overs over one and a half days , to easy bowlers can bowls as Steyn 36 overs, Morkel 30 overs, Tahir 25-35 , Kallis 25.overs and Philander 22 overs, I believe Steyn and Morkel will be a handful, the pitch has cracks and spin will play a part, the only importance for the Proteas is to score another 130-150 in two sessions or something close to that, then use the new ball and take 3 wickets before drinks and then have them 5 down at end of day. The recipe would be to bowl in good channels and make them play , nothing short or full in the first 10 overs.

      Wimpie - 2011-11-20 09:50

      Sounds good...but this mini series has been totaly unpredictable. (Ponting 3 Ducks), Newlands test, Cummins looking like a future great. He put Kallis under so much pressure that Kallis gave his wicket away. That takes some doing !!!

  • Blip - 2011-11-20 07:06

    Getting close to Greg Baum quality reportage, there...

  • Niki - 2011-11-20 08:44

    Rob Houwing, please don't "woof" us by proclaiming victory too soon!

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