Australian cricket’s darkest hour?

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?

James Morgan


  • Have you forgotten England v West Indies in Port of Spain 1994? England had one good innings and were bowled out for 46. Everybody has a bad day at the office once in a while.

  • Ah, but England were never 21-9! It was a deteriorating pitch, with uneven bounce, and Walsh and Ambrose were at their pomp. The pitch at Newlands wasn’t that bad. Australia got a 280-odd in their first inns, South Africa scored 236-2 in the final innings of the match, and 3 batsmen made centuries. Furthermore, we were never 180+ runs ahead at the half way mark.

    Yes, England have had their moments (the last tour of the Windies also produced a shocking collapse), but Australia haven’t capitulated so meekly for decades … hence the title of the article. England have had plenty of embarrassments in our time – it’s why we’re all so cynical! Can you blame us for having a bit of banter at Australia’s expense now the boot’s on the other foot ;-) We’ve waited 25 years for this!

  • Well we’re on the wane unfortunately. Teams go in cycles and we were lucky to have a longer run than usual. I remember vividly how the team was in the doghouse for a good dozen years or more after Lillee, Chapel and Marsh retired. We had a string of useless openers and a collapsible middle order. You guys always forget that. There was a time when Craig McDermott was our best bowler for most of a decade – and he was terrible, always spewing the ball down the legside. We got whipped by the Windies, beaten by you guys. Even the Kiwis got stuck in. It was hell, and just as bad as the Nasser, Athers years when you rarely would beat us. So it all goes around. Bottom line is, I’d rather see a good side victorious than a bad one. So if you lot are best in the world right now good on you. Cooky will break a load of records and Trotty might too. You’ve got a top spinner and a bunch of pacemen that, should they get their act together, could be formidable. We, on the otherhand, are on the downward slope, eating crow and hoping the next turn on the cricket roundabout comes around for us once more. We built our best side around Glen McGrath, and maybe there’s a young version of him or Warney or Lillee or Gilchrist coming through the juniors, who in a few years time will hit the national side. We live in hope.

    • I’m not so sure that Australia will be in the doldrums for long. Pat Cummins is the best young quickie I’ve seen for a long long time (maybe since Mohammad Amir). He’s way ahead of Finn at the same age. I also like the look of James Pattinson. Not so sure who the next great Aussie batsmen are though? Khawaja looks decent, but still has a bit to learn.

  • A rollercoaster two and half days. Test cricket rules!
    Not the best time to be an Australian fan, who are struggling to keep their lager down at this point.

  • How dare you say we haven’t capitulated like that for decades? We’ve been knocked over for less that 100 three times in 12 test matches.

    Of all the nerve, trying to make out like it’s some sort of unique event.

    • Lol ;-) I’m not sure any test team in history has ever been 21-9. Wonder how many the last pair put on in NZ’s record 26 all out?

  • Great match and so much better then when the first innings scores are both 500+. I love watching SA vs Australia as its unique opportunity to boo both teams.


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