Australia 284 & 47. South Africa 96 & 236-2. Cricket Boks win by 8 wickets
Words cannot describe the Aussies’ defeat in the first test to South Africa. Believe me, I’ve tried. Michael Clarke used ‘diabolical’ and ‘horrendous’ amongst other adjectives, but somehow they just didn’t cut it. I reckon ‘glorious’ and ‘hilarious’ are better fits, but even variations on ‘side-splitting’ come up short.
Let’s simply let the facts speak for themselves. They were 21-9 at one point yesterday. That’s twenty one runs for the loss of nine wickets. Amazing. How many teams have had a first innings lead of almost two hundred runs, but subsequently lost the game by eight wickets inside two and a half days?
Indeed, you could argue that Australia lost inside two days: with the late start on day one, the match was completed in just over 160 overs. That’s little more than five sessions – and basically two new balls worth of action. It’s embarrassing by anyone’s standards. Even England’s humiliations during the early nineties weren’t this bad.
For a few glorious minutes yesterday afternoon it looked like Australia might record the lowest total in the history of test cricket – a record held by New Zealand, who were bowled out for 26 against England in 1955. However, a few hopeful slogs and streaky edges from Siddle and Lyons saw them reach the dizzy heights of 47 all out.
The bottom line, however, was that Australia still had a handy lead because South Africa themselves had collapsed after lunch. They went from 49-1 to 96 all out in what was one of the craziest sessions in test history. Even crazier, the destroyer in chief was Shane Watson, the pie chucker extraordinaire.
South Africa needed 235 for victory in the fourth innings – a target that was evidently gettable, but somewhat improbable given the days events. The fact that South Africa knocked off the runs this morning for the loss of just two wickets, one of which was a gimme when the game was already up, was perhaps the strangest twist of all. It was, after all, exactly the same pitch. What on earth was yesterday’s commotion all about?
The great thing about this remarkable match is that test cricket has proved, once again, that it’s by far the best form of the game. The contest had everything – three top class hundreds from Clarke, Amla and Smith, potent pace bowling from Steyn, Morkel and Ryan Harris, and more twists and turns than the Senqu River, which stretches for over 2,200 kilometres.
It even had an element of humour: once again Mitchell Johnson’s performance was laughable. At the age of 30, and a bowling action that’s about as reliable as the UK border agency, how much longer can the Australia selectors keep faith with such an unfathomable cricketer?