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CRICKET TEST

Australia steamroll Proteas in two days on questionable Gabba pitch

Australia steamroll Proteas in two days on questionable Gabba pitch
Australia celebrate a wicket during day two of the first Test match between Australia and South Africa at the Gabba on 18 December 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo: Albert Perez / Getty Images)

After a lacklustre batting performance on day one, the Proteas bowling attack fought hard against a stacked Australian batting lineup to bring South Africa back into the game. However, that was all shattered with a total batting collapse in SA’s second innings — Australia ultimately securing victory on a grassy Gabba pitch which yielded 34 wickets in just two days of Test cricket.

South Africa began the second day of the first Test match against Australia very much on the back foot. Sitting at 145 for five, Australia were just seven runs off the Proteas’ first-innings total, with Travis Head (78*) still at the crease. 

However, some late wickets on day one, including that of Steven Smith, had given South Africa hope that there could still be life in the game. And the Proteas bowlers, and specifically their batting lineup, had it all to do when play got under way. 

Pat Cummins of Australia celebrates taking the wicket of Kagiso Rabada of South Africa during day two of the first Test match between Australia and South Africa at the Gabba on 18 December 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo: Bradley Kanaris / Getty Images)

Pat Cummins of Australia celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Dean Elgar of South Africa during day two of the first Test match between Australia and South Africa at the Gabba on 18 December 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo: Bradley Kanaris / Getty Images)

A questionable pitch 

With 34 wickets falling in two days of cricket, the Gabba’s grassy pitch, providing a plethora of bounce and movement, proved to be a nightmare for batters — raising questions about the fairness of the pitch. 

Just two batters passed the half-century mark during the match, with Head’s outstanding 92 in the first innings earning him the Man of the Match award. 

“You’ve got to ask yourself the question: is that a good advertisement for our format?” said the Proteas’ captain, Dean Elgar, in the post-match press conference. 

“I’m obviously a purist of this format and we want to see the game go to four, five days. And just the nature of how it started to play, with some seriously steep bounce with the old ball. I mean, you’re kind of [on a] hiding to [nothing] as a batting unit. If you think about it, only two batsmen, maybe three batsmen, applied themselves half-decently and scored runs. So, I don’t think it was a very good Test wicket.” 

David Warner of Australia is seen walking from the field after losing his wicket to Kagiso Rabada of South Africa during day two of the first Test match between Australia and South Africa at the Gabba on 18 December 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo: Bradley Kanaris / Getty Images)

Pat Cummins of Australia celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Dean Elgar of South Africa during day two of the first Test match between Australia and South Africa at the Gabba on 18 December 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo: Bradley Kanaris / Getty Images)

A fighting chance 

With 23-year-old Cameron Green and Head at the crease, the day’s play got off to a fine start for the Baggy Greens. The pair navigated the first six overs with ease, scoring at a healthy run rate to take Australia’s tally to 178 for five, with Head sitting on 92 not out and Green on a run-a-ball 18. 

In the seventh over of the day, Marco Jansen was brought into the attack, and suddenly the momentum shifted. 

First, Green (18) was gone after edging one to the slips. Although Keshav Maharaj initially palmed the catch into the air, Sarel Erwee caught it on the second attempt to give South Africa their first wicket of the day, leaving Australia on 181 for six. 

Two balls later, Head (92) was walking back to the tunnel after being caught behind by Kyle Verreynne — the left-hander getting a faint touch while glancing at a ball down the leg side, and although he reviewed, it was in vain. The score was 182 for seven. 

Australia’s tailenders added some valuable runs to their tally, with wicketkeeper Alex Carey (22*) and Mitchell Starc (14) contributing. Ultimately, Australia were all out for 218, giving them a 66-run lead heading into South Africa’s second innings. 

Kagiso Rabada of South Africa evades a ball during day two of the first Test match between Australia and South Africa at the Gabba on 18 December 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo: Albert Perez / Getty Images)


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A valiant effort from SA bowlers

It was a valiant effort from the South African bowlers, and Kagiso Rabada was the pick of the bunch, taking four for 76. Marco Jansen added three of his own, while Anrich Nortje (two) and Lungi Ngidi (one) rounded out the wickets. 

Off-spinner Keshav Maharaj bowled just two overs in Australia’s first innings, going for 17 runs — a stark contrast to his Australian counterpart Nathan Lyon, who proved handy with his three for 14 in South Africa’s first innings. 

Although there were some useful cameos from Smith (36), Carey and Green, Head carried his country’s batting lineup — producing a scintillating innings on a grassy pitch at the Gabba which predominantly favoured the bowlers. 

Kagiso Rabada of South Africa celebrates taking the wicket of David Warner of Australia during day two of the first Test match between Australia and South Africa at the Gabba on 18 December 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo: Bradley Kanaris / Getty Images)

Batting woes 

When South Africa’s second innings commenced just before 12 noon local time, the Proteas’ batters had it all to do, and ultimately, they weren’t up to the task. 

Elgar (2) fell just 1.4 overs into the second innings, given out lbw off the bowling of Pat Cummins. 

An over later, Rassie van der Dussen (0) joined him back in the hut after being clean-bowled by an unplayable delivery from Starc — the Australian speedster notching up his 300th Test wicket in the process. 

The Proteas went into the first-session break at three for two, and they were soon three down after Erwee (3) was caught by Green off the bowling of Cummins. South Africa’s top three contributed a dismal 23 runs combined during the match. 

Travis Head of Australia looks dejected after losing his wicket during day two of the first Test match between Australia and South Africa at the Gabba on 18 December 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo: Bradley Kanaris / Getty Images)

A brief resistance 

Beginning their partnership with SA at five for three after 7.2 overs, Temba Bavuma and Khaya Zondo provided some much-needed resistance in what was turning into a collapse.

The pair survived 16 overs, putting on 42 runs, before Bavuma (29) was trapped lbw off the bowling of Lyon, leaving South Africa on 47 for three. 

And much like the first innings, when one wicket falls, many follow. First-innings star Verreynne was gone just two balls after Bavuma for a two-ball duck, caught at slip off the bowling of Scott Boland. Proteas number seven Jansen (0) followed suit, clean-bowled by Boland in the same over. At 48 for six, and still trailing Australia’s first innings total by 18 runs, an Australian victory seemed all but a formality. 

Maharaj was caught at slip for a quick 16 off the bowling of Starc, before Cummins picked up the wickets of Rabada (3) and Nortje (0) in quick succession. 

With South Africa writhing at 69 for nine and sitting on 15 off 65, Zondo decided to have a go — playing some textbook strokes which included hitting three fours in a row off the bowling of Cummins. 

Zondo and Ngidi put on 30 runs for the last wicket to at least force the Australians to bat for a few overs in the second innings. The Proteas number 11 contributed two boundaries of his own before falling to Cummins for nine, with the Australian captain picking up his fifth wicket of the innings in the process.  

The Australian bowling attack had the Proteas all out for 99 — marking South Africa’s second-lowest total against the Aussies in 90 years and leaving Australia with the formality of scoring 34 runs to win. 

Proteas number six Zondo was left stranded at the crease on 36 not out — which marked his highest Test score to date. 

Travis Head of Australia bats during day two of the first Test match between Australia and South Africa at the Gabba on 18 December 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo: Albert Perez / Getty Images)

Positives amid defeat 

Australia, naturally, went on to win, but the Proteas bowlers, and particularly Rabada, didn’t make it easy. 

The Proteas star took four wickets in Australia’s second innings in just four overs, sending David Warner (3), Usman Khawaja (2), Smith (6) and first-innings hero Head (0) packing with a magnificent spell of fast bowling. 

Extras (19) were Australia’s top scorer in the second innings, bolstered by two Nortje bouncers which flew over Verreynne’s head for five wides. 

The Aussies ended the match on 35 for four, securing victory on just the second day of the Test match — which ties the record for the shortest Test match in history in terms of days played. 

“Another 60 runs might have been a different result. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around what’s happened,” Elgar said after the match. 

Rabada emerged as South Africa’s shining star, ending the match with figures of eight for 89 from just 21.3 overs bowled. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Stephen Carter says:

    I trust that the ICC will sanction Australia Cricket for allowing a test match to be played on a sub-standard pitch. But I won’t hold my breath.

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