11 November 2011
South Africa won an extraordinary test match against Australia inside three days, chasing down a victory target of 236 runs at Newlands in Cape Town on Friday. The contest was turned on its head on a remarkable second day as numerous records were established.
It looked like pretty standard fare on the opening day, which ended with the match tilted in the Proteas’ favour, with Australia on 214 for 8. Captain Michael Clarke was still in the middle, unbeaten on 107, but he’d received little support from the rest of the Aussie batsmen.
Day two started calmly enough. Clarke, with decent support from Peter Siddle, helped the Australians to a total of 284 before he was the last man out, bowled by Morne Morkel for a splendid 151.
After a poor start, Morkel finished with figures of 3 for 82, but it was the opening partnership of Dale Steyn and debutant Vernon Philander who did most of the damage. Steyn, the number one ranked bowler in test cricket, lived up to his billing with a haul of 4 for 55, while Philander weighed in with 3 for 63.
Then, South Africa came in to bat. They made a solid enough start, reaching 49 for 1 before one of the most dramatic days ever of test cricket fired into life.
To put it into perspective, ESPN Cricinfo featured a wonderful quote from former Australian captain Mark Taylor, who said: “I thought I’d missed a whole day of my life” after he went to bed with the South African total on 49 for 1 and awoke with Australia on the unbelievable second innings total of 21 for 9.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves …
Two stars out for ducks
With the total on 49, the Proteas lost two star batsmen for ducks, with Jacques Kallis following Hashim Amla back to the hut after facing only four balls.
Captain Graeme Smith dug in and made it to 37, the innings’ highest score, before he was bowled by Shane Watson for 37, with the total on 73. That made the score 73 for 4.
It soon became 83 for 9 as Shane Watson tore the home side’s innings apart with his five-for coming in only 21 deliveries.
Last man in Imran Tahir managed to add 13 runs with Dale Steyn before he, too, fell, a victim of Ryan Harris, who finished with the impressive figures of 4 for 33. Watson ended with an even better 5 for 17.
A miserly 96
South Africa were all out for a miserly 96 and staring down the barrel, facing a seemingly insurmountable first innings deficit of 188 runs, if the weather played along. Cricket, though, is a funny game and that opinion of the state of affairs was quickly changed in remarkable fashion.
Batting again, Australia stumbled out of the gate, losing Watson LBW to Steyn for four, Ricky Ponting LBW to Philander for a duck, Phil Hughes caught by Rudolph off Morkel for nine, and Mike Hussey first ball, caught by Ashwell Prince off Morkel.
Suddenly Clarke, whose brilliant 151 had ended not that long ago, after South Africa batted for only 24.3 overs, was out in the middle once more, and Australia’s innings had not yet reached double-digits for overs.
He didn’t last long and was the fifth man out, trapped in front by Philander, with the Aussie total on 15.
Haddin departed for a duck three runs later, caught behind by Mark Boucher after a stunningly loose T20-type swing at a delivery from Philander.
The lowest ever total
Three more runs were added, taking Australia’s total to 21 in the 11th over, but three more wickets then fell without a run being added. Harris departed for three, Johnson for three, and Shaun Marsh for a second ball duck, leaving the tourists on 21 for 9 and in danger of “bettering” the lowest ever test total of 26, scored by New Zealand against England in 1955.
Thanks to number 11, Nathan Lyon, they avoided that ignominious achievement. He top scored with 14 before becoming the last man out, with Peter Siddle undefeated on 12. Australia had fallen for a ridiculous 47 all out. It was the fourth lowest innings total in their history.
“Disgusting,” said Aussie skipper Clarke of his team’s batting effort.
Philander matched Watson with a five-for, with the South African’s five victims falling in the space of just 20 balls. Morkel knocked over 3 for 9, and Steyn snared 2 for 23.
South Africa had lost their last seven wickets for only 23 runs but, somehow, Australia had then lost their first nine sticks for 21.
That meant there was plenty of time for South Africa to take to the crease again. Incredibly, it also meant that both Michael Clarke and South African opener Jacques Rudolph would bat twice on the same day in a test match!
Rudolph, back in the South African test team after a five-year break, made 14 before he was caught by wicketkeeper Haddin off the bowling of Siddle.
Wickets dried up
Suddenly, though, the wickets dried up. Smith and Amla took the Proteas to 81 for 1 by stumps, although Hussey grassed a catch off the last ball of the day, which would have seen Amla out. The pitch seemed to offer a reasonable contest between bat and ball, which left one scratching one’s head, wondering where in the world South Africa’s 96 all out and Australia’s 47 all out had come from.
On day three, Amla was put down early by Watson at first slip, again off of the unlucky Harris, but after that the contest reverted to a more familiar test scene, with Smith and Amla settling down and taking charge.
With both batsmen in the 80s, Amla let loose, smashing a number of boundaries to take him to a century. He went on to 112 before falling to Mitchell Johnson, caught in the gulley by Clarke. His innings had included 21 fours.
Together, Amla and Smith had put on a South African record partnership for the second wicket against Australia of 195.
Kallis came in with only 15 runs required, but Smith was in sight of only his second century against Australia. The question was whether or not he would make it. He did.
With victory almost sealed, a four by the captain took the scores level and Smith to 100. A couple of balls later he claimed the single that took the Proteas to a head-shaking eight-wicket victory in one of the most bizarre test matches of all time.
Three superb centuries were scored in the match, but the man of the match award went to the debutant Vernon Philander, who finished with match figures of 8 for 78, after capturing 3 for 63 and 5 for 15.
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