The comeback kings did it again with a thumping win over Australia to ensure the series headed to Cape Town at 1-1. ‘A collective: It’s alive’ must have reverberated through the country, with South Africa now still having a chance to beat the Aussies on home soil for the first time since readmission. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks five talking points from the fourth day at St. George’s.
South Africa pulled off a superb comeback at St. George’s Park, completing a 231-run win inside four days to square the three-match Test series against Australia 1-1.
After setting the visitors a target of 448, South Africa’s bowling attack performed out of their skin on the fourth day to bag 10 wickets and claim a win. A ton at the top of the order from Chris Rogers and 66 from David Warner weren’t enough to shield the rest of the batsmen from harm.
Not a single other batsman managed to edge into double figures, with Dale Steyn bagging a four-for to skittle the Australians out for 216. Here are five talking points from a dramatic final day at St. George’s Park.
The Australian batting frauds
In the first Test, Shaun Marsh and Steve Smith rescued Australia in the first innings. Then a David Warner storm followed. Thanks to some horrendous fielding by South Africa and some questionable bowling, Australia got away from a dozy South Africa. Things were completely different this time around and the soft underbelly of the Australian batting line-up was exposed. Michael Clarke has passed 30 just twice in his last 18 innings while the inexperience of Shaun Marsh and Alex Doolan cropped up, and Brad Haddin has finally run out of the luck which helped him through the Ashes. Whatever pitch Newlands dishes up, South Africa certainly will be the more confident of the two teams. For all the criticism the pitch received, it was a really good surface and with some good old-fashioned line and length bowling, SA foxed the Australians and proved that they were indeed the number one attack in the world. Newlands is going to be one heck of a Test match.
The timing of the declaration
Who’d wanna be a captain? On a pitch that’s still good for batting, with rain looming on the final day and the prospect of squaring the series up for grabs, Graeme Smith and co. had an interesting decision to make. With David Warner, Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin having the potential to be potent, both runs on the board and time in the middle were to be considered. South Africa wanted to get as close to the 450-run mark as possible and decided to settle for a lead of 447. With Wayne Parnell out injured and unable to bowl and no frontline spinner to rely on, how many overs does Smith think his top bowlers need in order to take 10 wickets – and is going for the win more important than ensuring they cannot lose the series? With bad weather hovering about for the fifth and final day, the decision was always going to be under scrutiny. It turned out that South Africa’s bowling attack was good enough to take 10 wickets in less than a day. Although there were many runs to spare and the declaration would have been questioned, for now, it doesn’t matter.
Morkel finds his inner mongrel
Usually, Morne Morkel’s role is to contain. With no frontline spinner in the South African team, Morkel is there to keep things tight and quiet. In this Test, Morkel has found that inner mongrel that can be so handy. He’s been less conservative and containing and more attacking, with bouncers flying everywhere and him getting right up in the face of some batsmen. Morkel’s spindly physique allows him to generate some extra bounce on almost every surface. Add his skill and pace to that and you have yourself a handy addition to the bowling line-up. After suffering a bout of flu in the first Test, Vernon Philander probably isn’t as fit as he should be and didn’t get through as many overs as he should. It hasn’t always been possible for Morkel to be that terrier bowler, but it’s been good to see his attacking approach earn him some of the wickets which he more than often only creates. It would be interesting to see what happens if Philander bowls longer spells of his line and lenght in a more containing role.
Hashim Amla back on form
Form is temporary, but class is permanent. Barry Richards suggested that after hitting 30, Hashim Amla was past his best. After a dodgy run of form, Amla returned to his usual classy self with a fine, unbeaten 127. It consisted of everything that makes Amla so great, with wristy flicks and magnificent cover drives. Amla’s second innings effort propelled South Africa to a position of control. Amla still looks suspect against the left-armer at times and sometimes still doesn’t know where is offstump is, but the confidence he gained in PE will do him wonders.
The second innings enigma that is David Warner
People often talk about Graeme Smith’s record in the fourth innings, but David Warner is very quickly becoming a fourth innings specialist himself. He averages 56.40 batting there, higher than any other innings. He had plenty of luck with dropped catches, but he has taken full advantage of that luck. In his last ten Tests, Warner averages 81.12 in his second innings and 25.90 in his first. There’s not too much one can read into that stat, but it certainly makes him a handy player to have in your team for that second innings boost. Forget his personality; Warner is growing as a cricketer and defying beliefs that slap-bang-wallop do not a cricketer make. As long as he is at a crease in a chase, every single team out there probably feels a little bit nervous. DM
South Africa won by 231 runs
1st innings: South Africa 423 all out (AB de Villiers 116, JP Duminy 123; Nathan Lyon 5-130)
2nd innings: Australia 246 all out (David Warner 70, Steve Smith 49; Vernon Philander 3-68, Morne Morkel 3-63)
3rd innings: South Africa 270-5 declared (Hashim Amla 127, Mitchell Johnson 2-51)
4th innings: Australia 216 all out (Chris Rogers 107, David Warner 66; Dale Steyn 4-55)
South Africa celebrates taking the wicket of Australia’s Nathan Lyon (R) and winning the second test cricket match against Australia in Port Elizabeth, February 23, 2014. REUTERS/Rogan Ward