A lifeless start to the first test between Australia and South Africa panned out into an entertaining draw at the Gabba yesterday.
After skipper Michael Clarke declared 115 runs ahead in the first innings, the South Africans looked wobbly early, losing Alviro Petersen (5) and Graeme Smith (23) to slump to 2/55. However, the likes of first innings heroes Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis again proved to be the wall that could not be penetrated.
With Day 2 completely washed out, and Australia seemingly on the back foot, a possible result began to rise when the Australians pegged South Africa back on Day 3, but then looked in trouble themselves. Clarke was the turning point of the Australian innings, scoring 259 not out, along with Ed Cowan, who posted his maiden test century.
Here’s my analysis of the test, Day by Day:
Day 1: The Australian bowlers struggled for the majority of the day after dismissing Smith and Petersen, Amla and Kallis able to dig in and score 104 and 147 respectively, to be 2/255 at stumps. With the pitch not giving much in the way of swing or movement, anything short or half volley length was suitably punished. Debutant Rob Quiney and left-hander Mike Hussey were called on to bowl in the afternoon in an attempt to break any sort of momentum. James Pattinson the pick of the bowlers.
Day 2: was a complete washout, rain and showers hammering the Gabba and Brisbane.
Day 3: The pitch showed plenty of signs of green as the Australians whittled down the South African batting order, dismissing them for 450. It didn’t go the Aussies way all day, however: the wickets of Warner, Quiney and Cowan came and went, and the score was 3/40. Enter captain Clarke and opener Ed Cowan. The two combined for a partnership of 259 and brought Australia right back into the game. Cowan began to show aggression in his innings that was lacking in his debut almost 12 months ago.
Day 4: Australia piled on 1/376, and gave South Africa hell. Cowan and Clarke where the chieftains in orchestrating a complete decompiling of the Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander bowling attack. Michael Hussey came in after Cowan was dismissed and raced towards a century at stumps. At stumps, Clarke was racing toward a double century and showed exactly what he was capable of, putting the pacemen to all parts of the Gabba.
Day 5: On a sunny day and dry Gabba deck, Clarke raced to 259 not out and selflessly declared with Australia 115 runs. James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle immediately began to wear the Proteas down, but the rocks of Kallis and Amla stemmed any definitive chance of victory, the South Africans closing at 5/166, a lead of 51.
Throughout the whole test, the big question of whether Australia’s line-up would stand up or crack against the South Africans was tossed up time and again. Ed Cowan and Michael Clarke on Day 4; Pattinson, Hilfenhaus and Siddle on Day 5 threw that question straight back at those who said it.
Rob Quiney came and went all guns blazing for nine. While I do understand the criticism thrown at him, look at his test overall: he took several catches, bowled a few handy overs, and when he batted, he was swift and precise. He will (and should) get another chance in Adelaide.
David Warner is the interesting one. He can play, but now he is jittery and floundering at almost everything. Twelve months ago he was accumulating runs easily. I admire Warner, but he desperately needs some Shield experience.
Finally, Jacques Kallis. The man is a machine at 37. Almost 13,000 test runs, and possibly one of the all-time great allrounders and cricketers. He showed that he wasn’t about to give up the gauntlet, scoring 147 in the first innings.