Proteas Fade In The Gloom

THE PROTEAS’ fortunes were as bright as the weather on the opening day of the second Sunfoil Test against Australia at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on Thursday. 

While the sky was blue and the sun was shining the batsmen looked pretty much at ease as the total passed 200 for the loss of four wickets at a rate comfortably in excess of four to the over after Graeme Smith had again won the toss. 

The morning session produced 106 runs and the afternoon session 107. But the key factor was that wickets were falling at regular intervals. 

The sky was already darkening when the players came out for the final session to witness a collapse – not quite of Newlands proportions – in which the last six wickets fell for 25 runs. The Proteas were all out for 266 in 71 overs and bad light prevented Australia from starting their response. They had already had to finish the South African innings with two spinners to stay on the field at all. 

An important factor for Australia will be the fact that Shane Watson, who broke down with a hamstring injury while bowling before lunch, got back on the field in the afternoon and has spent enough time in the middle to occupy his normal opening batting position on the second day. 

Many of the Proteas’ batsmen put far too light a premium on their wickets with Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Ashwell Prince (the three batsmen to pass 50) and Mark Boucher all falling to catches 30 metres or further from the bat. 

As always it is too early to pass judgment on where the Proteas stand in relation to a par total. That will become clearer when Australia’s innings takes shape.

So far the match has had a remarkable similarity to the Test match at the same venue in February, 1970, the game in which South Africa clinched their last home series against Australia.

Ali Bacher won the toss, as he did throughout that series, and his side was dismissed for 279 with three batsmen – Barry Richards, Graeme Pollock and Lee Irvine – passing 50 with Irvine’s 79 being top score.

Richards made an exhilarating 65 off 73 balls with 12 fours and a six which is probably the last time that a South African batsman scored so freely on the first morning at the Wanderers until Kallis’effort in this match of 54 off only 41 balls with 8 fours and 2 sixes.

De Villiers made top score in this latest match (64 off 97 balls, 11 fours) and Prince exactly 50 (89 balls, 9 fours). All three of them will have been very disappointed that they did not go on to something a lot more substantial.

Australia must have been delighted with what they achieved and particularly with the debut of Patrick Cummins who claimed Hashim Amla as his first Test victim, took a great catch to dismiss De Villiers and deserved better figures than 1/38 in 15 overs.

Whatever form the Australian attack takes under a new coach and a new selection committee it is obvious that the 18-year-old has come to

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