Proteas … the Perth torturers

2016-11-06 15:10
Vernon Philander (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – Australia will be hugely relieved that they are almost certainly just a day away from ending their rather sorry four-match Test saga against South Africa at the WACA.

The Proteas are closing in ruthlessly on likely victory over the Baggy Greens in the first Test, with a win for the home nation just about impossible – they require a further 370 runs on day five with six wickets remaining -- and even a draw looking an extremely tall order considering the currently dubious reputation of what’s left of their line-up in batting terms.

Smartest money suggests that the South Africans are going to make it three wins from four Tests at the famous venue, with just one stalemate in 2005/06, and walk away never having tasted defeat in the premier format there.

I say walk away, because the new 60,000-capacity Perth Stadium, under advanced construction just across the river in Burswood, is earmarked to start hosting all Test matches against Australia’s mainline foes – South Africa, England and India – from 2018/19.

At least as far as the present bilateral rivalry is concerned, the end of Tests at the WACA can hardly  come quickly enough for the Aussies, so used to ruling the roost historically over SA at most of their other grounds.

Apart from their general, often series outcome-influencing success rate there in modern times, the Proteas have developed an extraordinary habit of going on an absolute rampage runs-wise in their second innings, when you would naturally expect conditions to be more challenging, at the WACA.

The trend started in that maiden experience of the ground in 2005/06, when Jacques Rudolph and Justin Kemp shut up shop heroically in a game-saving second knock by the visitors: South Africa batted out 126 overs to finish on a creditable 287 for five after being set an improbable 491 to win.

Then came the amazing assault for victory against the odds in 2008/09, which simultaneously kick-started their success in winning a series Down Under for the first time, when Graeme Smith’s charges chased down 414 for the loss of only four wickets – the second-highest successful pursuit of a target in Tests of all time.

They were back in prolific second-innings business in the pivotal final Test at the WACA of 2012/13, when they amassed 569 in 111.5 overs, and a footsore Aussie side then landed way short of a juggernaut requirement of 632 to lose by 309 runs.

The proud hallmark only continued on Sunday’s fourth day’s play, as the Proteas stretched their overnight score of 390 for six to an unexpectedly more swollen 540 for eight before the bell.

All of Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander – with his second-best Test innings of 73 – and the delightfully breezy but clean-hitting Keshav Maharaj only piled on the discomfort for the Australian attack.

So in the four Test matches between the countries at the WACA, the Proteas have amassed a total of 1,810 second-innings runs at a cost of only 27 wickets – an average of 67.03 runs per wicket.

In short, carnage.

It is the sort of statistical mastery that would demoralise most teams toward the business end of a five-day contest, and the present Australians under slightly embattled Steve Smith – he has been copping it increasingly as captain from home pundits and press, it seems – look like suffering exactly the same fate.

The cherry on top of a stellar Sunday for the Proteas was a quite brilliant bit of fielding by Temba Bavuma to run out that never-say-die, in-form character David Warner – former SA coach Eric Simons in the SuperSport studio described watching replays of the moment as “like listening to a great piece of music again and again” – and a magical spell of pace bowling from Kagiso Rabada that has come close to breaking the host nation’s back.

It is not over yet, and perhaps the remaining Aussie batsmen will fight tooth and nail on Monday.

But there is also a fair chance that things could end quickly, with the home side presumably already victims of considerable mental and stamina-related disintegration.

This is the WACA, after all, the Proteas’ beloved home away from home.

They will wish to vacate it in yet more glory.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  cricket


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