Proteas to rescue it for Biff?

2014-03-04 07:20

Cape Town – Don’t go anywhere, for this is South Africa -- modern kings of the Houdini feat -- under the cosh and that can mean excitement beyond wildest dreams.

GALLERY: Biff in pictures

Can ... and now “will” is just that bit likelier after the oddly-timed but earth-shattering late-night announcement on Monday that this is captain Graeme Smith’s final Test appearance for his country.

The Proteas have been a two-tone outfit in the series against Australia – sometimes classy, sometimes cowed – and there must be a good chance they will swiftly erase their Newlands lethargy and fight for all they are worth to save the series, powered by a grim desire not to make their leader’s swansong an unpalatable one.

Yet with two days to play in the decisive third contest, the noose only seems to be tightening around the Proteas’ collective necks: just how many more fight-back miracles can this band of men work, after all?

Smith’s team, with the veteran captain himself continuing his miserable series form, were not nearly obdurate enough in their first innings on Monday and then, in what should have been a spirited burst at the Aussie top order in the lengthening shadows, fired only a peashooter with Morne Morkel the glaringly most wasteful man behind the trigger.

Trailing already by 207 runs on the first knock, cocksure series nemesis David Warner rubbed salt into wounds by romping to an unbeaten 25 off 17 balls to extend the Aussie lead to 234 with all 10 wickets intact before the merciful sanctuary of stumps for South Africa.

The Baggy Greens seem to hold all the aces, and unless there is a spectacular clatter of wickets on Tuesday morning – there were at least signs Dale Steyn might bowl again -- Michael Clarke could have the luxury of declaring around halfway through the day’s play and probably some 420 to 450 runs to the good.

If Warner continues on his bruising way, threatening a second advance to three figures in the match, the bell may even ring earlier.

 But South Africa having to bat out around 140 overs to save the series threatens to be their minimum requirement: and if they could only manage 82.5 of them with conditions pretty certainly less challenging in their first turn at the crease, what price a greatly lengthier vigil the next time?

Barring a dramatic slump by the tourists, stonewalling for a draw seems the only option now for the Proteas, as statistics at the picturesque ground paint a largely bleak picture if they somehow still aspire to winning.

For starters, the highest fourth-innings total in a Newlands win is 334 for six, so the Proteas have to rip out the Aussies for the addition of only some 100 runs or fewer if they are to go after a target within that range.

That victory was achieved by the very same Australia in 2001/02, earning them early achievement of the series triumph in the second Test of a three-match series.

On that occasion, and with South Africa understandably favoured for an equalising win at the outset of the chase, Ricky Ponting’s 100 not out and 96 from Matthew Hayden made the crucial difference.

At least to their credit, South Africa had amassed 473 in their own second innings then after trailing by plenty on the first, and occupied the crease for all of 162 overs in doing so – reminding that the Newlands pitch is not necessarily a beast to bat on in the second half of a Test match.

The top fourth-innings total of any kind at the ground is 354 for five, achieved by West Indies in 2004 when the draw they earned in the third Test staved off a whitewash in the four-Test series which they surrendered 3-0.

They had been set a target of 441, and Dwayne Smith’s unbeaten 105 and 86 from the fading genius Brian Lara helped them pull of a courageous stalemate.

The Windies lasted exactly 100 overs in achieving that outcome, so there is every chance the Proteas in the current Test will have to eclipse that tally by quite some distance to get off the hook against the pumped-up Australians.

You have little in sport if you don’t possess belief, and we know Smith’s outfit are seldom wanting in that department, even when they are stuck in a corner.

It is something to hold onto, in what otherwise seems a crumbling fortress.

At least the magnificent Newlands Test public haven’t given up all hope, judging by the healthy day three attendance.

Plenty of them will be back for the game’s run-in, you would think, despite South Africa’s hazardous situation ... and not at all discounting the chance of a fitting, typical rearguard action by a certain GC Smith himself.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


  • Johnny Axe - 2014-03-04 07:35

    Shame. Grabbing at straws big time. Not in your wildest wet dream Robbie.

      Nicholas Wessels - 2014-03-04 08:05

      I am not a Smith hater like many people. His stats prove that he is a very talented cricketer. But I can help but think this is very poor timing on this decision for a few reasons: 1. Why retire midway through a test? This is like the captain of a sinking ship getting off the ship first. The least he could do was wait until after the test. At least for his team mates. 2. This is always for the rest of his life going to look like Australia got the better of him and forced him to retire. 3. Why retire when you couldn't score more than 10 runs in the past few innings? Don't you want to prove that you are better than that and end on a high note? It seems like a rushed decision not thought through properly. Now it is something he can not reverse.

      thuli.mbene - 2014-03-04 08:23

      Nicholas, remember, this is the same man who announced retiring from T20 after a rather embarrassing exit to the WC

      Nicholas Wessels - 2014-03-04 08:31

      @Xana, some good points. But you don't make such announcements putting the focus on yourself when your team is on the rack.

      Zoheb Hassan - 2014-03-04 08:34

      Kallis says his retiring while playing pakistan and scores a century.. Smith says his retiring and if he scores a century then there's something fishy going on there..

      Kevin Robarts - 2014-03-04 08:37

      A shame the one dimensional fields that he sets have cost the Proteas about 50 runs an innings for his whole career

      Sulaiman Galant - 2014-03-04 08:49

      Totally agree with you Nicholas it is the wrong time to retire especially mid way through a series. For me it is a coward way out even though I know he has a young family and a 2.2 million contract with Surrey still not the way to go.**Deeply Disappointed**

      Chez Kri - 2014-03-04 09:47

      @Maestro. Bl@@dy well said. The naysayers should look at his statistics and appreciate what we had with this man at the helm. At least he didn't fix a match and steal from the fans. (I paid good money and gave huge moral support at games we now know Hansie fixed) Viva Biff Viva!!

  • Piet Genade - 2014-03-04 07:38

    Need to get Warner out quickly otherwise we may be batting again just after lunch. Unfortunately it looks as unlikely as the first innings that our guys can take the wickets. It could have really been interesting if they were 2 or 3 down by now.

  • Sean Tearnan - 2014-03-04 07:40

    Biff a SA Cricketing Legend. We salute u. Go out and win this your way

  • Drake Richardson - 2014-03-04 07:41

    Ha ha haaaaaa..... Funny article. The Easter Bunny is more believable than that bunch of spineless clowns doing something other than fold like a house of cards again. The only runs captain smurf will get would be from diarrhea.

      Chez Kri - 2014-03-04 09:52

      You obviously don't watch cricket or you would know that we are the number 1 team in the world. Go back to playing bridge with your mother - there's a good boy!

  • Trix Roux - 2014-03-04 07:41

    Should've jumped ship with Kallis see he knew what was

  • Paul John - 2014-03-04 07:47

    Thank you Smith for doing the honorable thing by retiring...

  • Ryno Karelsen - 2014-03-04 07:49

    In their dreams...

  • Christiaan Du Plessis - 2014-03-04 07:50

    After many years of great service, how we remember him might be up to his final innings. If he can help SA save the series, he will go down a legend. If he fails people will say good riddance. So his last innings might be his biggest yet. I hope he rises to the occasion.

  • Martin Pienaar - 2014-03-04 07:58

    He should have done that years ago!!

  • Jacob Maermerrie - 2014-03-04 07:58

    Against the best bowling attack in the world?? Dream on Rob!!

      Mac Naidoo - 2014-03-04 08:04

      How are they gonna do that Rob. They are playing like they have already lost the match.

  • thuli.mbene - 2014-03-04 08:03

    Pffft. It's always so funny how some people conveniently forget that Aussie has rather a large say in the outcome of this match. Too pig headed to admit that Australia might just have the measure of the proteas.

  • Jon Low - 2014-03-04 08:03

    Not with a bang, but a whimper...

  • Anele Booi - 2014-03-04 08:06

    Blacks and whites agrees smith is weak we agree about something atlast, he better redeem himself by getting 50 atleast

      Koos van der Walt - 2014-03-04 08:34

      Anele what are you referring to by" blacks and whites"??? Zebras are not interested in cricket at all???'

  • Alison Bains - 2014-03-04 08:20

    This article is based on hope rather than logic. We all know how it wil end.

  • Solly Knoetze - 2014-03-04 08:23

    Loergat has promissed him the coaching job.

      thuli.mbene - 2014-03-04 08:55

      From Ireland? He has his ticket to the first world.

  • Jonathan Faurie - 2014-03-04 08:28

    I have never been a fan of Smith. Always thought he was a prick. But this article on Crikinfo sums up his career, and I cant argue the facts: Smith led South Africa through their most successful period in Test history. They have been on an unbeaten run away from home for almost eight years and have not lost at home in five years. He has been in charge of the top batsman, top bowler and leading all-rounder, all at the same time. He has taken them to No.1 in the world and kept there for 19 months. He has been their talisman and their frontman, a frontman in every way including the literal, opening the batting in difficult conditions and averaging almost 50 as he approaches the end. Good luck Smith. I suppose we will miss you in a way.

      Henry du Bois - 2014-03-04 08:51

      Average could have been 70 if he batted well against good sides - his averages come from Pakistan , Sri Lanka (in SA), Bangladesh , West India , New Zealand . Subtract the runs he has scored against the above countries , and give us an average against England , India and Australia , lets see his test averages then .

      Richard Barnes - 2014-03-04 11:20

      Actually, Biff averages 56 against England. He didn't average that much against India and Aus but that's not surprising. Biff averaged 33 against Aus, GaryK 34, JK only 41. So all three had much lower averages against Aus than their career averages. Does anybody use this to claim that Gary and JK were over-rated? Ricky Ponting only averaged 26 in India. Brian Lara only averaged 34 against India over his career. You don't find anybody claiming they weren't "true" legends because of it. Rahul Dravid averaged 97 against Zim, only 33 against SA. Does that mean he's a poser who doesn't belong in the group of elite batsmen?? Everybody has higher averages against the minnows.

  • Simphiwe Masimula - 2014-03-04 08:33

    I wish we fight back to honour this great man we have!That will be the great farewell ever.

  • Phindile Zina - 2014-03-04 09:33

    Graeme Smith, led this team to number one in test cricket for quite a long time and he leaves it still at number one spot. I'm sure his miserable form in this series is the reason for his sudden retirement, but I respect him for the decision he took. He's been under-performing for quite a while now, I'd also do the same if I were him. May the Proteas bounce back in this series-decider...we all know that they're capable of doing so.

  • Lor Dantebellum - 2014-03-04 09:39

    Go for it Proteas !!!!!!!!

  • Marnus J. Richter - 2014-03-04 12:13

    Rather Rescue Biff

  • Antoine Tredoux - 2014-03-04 16:20

    Graeme Smith has done the right thing, i think the pressure and expectations of people at some point has to take it's toll on one, simply, when the joy and fun is gone, it is time to move on. He is and was a great Captain, I wish him well for the future, the least one can do!!!

  • thuli.mbene - 2014-03-04 19:20

    3. You are the weakest link-goodbye

  • Rudy Saudian - 2014-03-04 22:05

    With fans like this.who needs enemies.People insulting one another and a great captain.

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