Friday, November 11, 2011

I don't know what title to give to this...this thing...

First there is the weird. [Paul Adams]
Then there is the extraordinary. [South Africa's chase of 434]
Over all this is the bizarre. [Symonds dismissal of Clarke's pad, see here]
And even then, there is the Newlands Test match.

It had all the bearings of a typical test match to begin with. A struggling Australian batting line-up against the highly rated pace bowling duo of Steyn and Morkel. There were the usual start-stops, the "wickets in a bunch" and the sparkling counter-attack from the skipper (Michael Clarke, 151 out of a team total of 280). Clarke's innings was of high merit. It was aggressive and furious, yet it was sensible. When the guarantee of your partner staying put at the other end was pretty much minimal, every run would be vital and getting them quickly was what you need to do, and that was precisely what that knock did. So you end your first innings with a decent total of 280 and gloriously press-box away about how you are still in the match.

When Shane Watson was given the cherry by Clarke to resume proceedings after lunch on day two, not even the wildest of minds or the most eccentric of the fellows could have anticipated what was to come. In the next 30 overs, one of the most bizarre days of test cricket unfolded.

It was at this point that I had decided to go for dinner. By the time I came back, South Africa was batting all right, but in the fourth innings.

Hang on. What? The day started with Australia finishing their first innings and now its the fourth innings all ready?

That's right. The fourth innings came via two fantastic collapses. In the first, the smaller of the two, the hosts went from 40/1 to 96 All Out. Shane Watson, the demolisher-in-chief, grabbed 5-15 in five overs. Ryan Harris grabbed three Proteas too. And it looked like it was going to be a Aussie party. Then came the second collapse.

The unfortunate distinction of posting the lowest ever total in an innings belongs to New Zealand when they managed a paltry 26 against England, back in 1955. Their friends from across the Tasman Sea came very close to snatching the record away from them. Australia went to tea at 13/3. On resumption, five overs later, they were 21/9 (or as you would see in Australia, 9\21). A combination of great bowling by Philander (that's the family name) and poor shot-making (even gully cricket teams will shake their heads) saw Australia perilously close to giving the Kiwis, an early Christmas gift. The last wicket partnership of 26 between No. 9, Peter Siddle and No. 11, Nathan Lyon saw Australia ultimately post 47, their lowest total in 105 years.

So in a space of dinner, almost every thing that can happen on a cricket pitch happened. At the end of the day though, calmness prevailed in Cape Town and the South African dressing room after some nervous prodding and nudging, as they eventually reached 81/1, well on their way to achieving a most extraordinary test victory.

Australia still had one more thing to say though.
Michael Hussey dropped Hashim Amla of the last ball of the day.

[PS- I started writing this with SA requiring some 70 odd runs to win. At this moment they need another 14. Ok Amla, let Smith get his century too.]