Australia 163, South Africa 2/230
Day 2 was going to be a great day of cricket. It was all set up for the great man Ricky Ponting, who is next man in, to play one last great innings and set up a big lead in this Test cricket “Grand Final”. And unusually for a Saturday during cricket season, I had all day to watch. We had no cricket due to an inter-association Twenty20 tournament, our Association selectors deciding there was no place for a 33 year old with a bad back, dodgy shoulder and who doesn’t move as well in the field as he used to. Probably a wise decision. So after a few hours work on Saturday morning I rush home to watch one last big knock from Punter, who I have followed from the start and is by far the best Australian batsman I have seen.
I don’t have to wait long. Warner wafts at a Steyn delivery outside off stump and is gone in the second over. This is what we will have to put up with from Warner in between his match-winning innings. Punter walks out to a huge applause and gets off the mark with a quick single. Nightwatchman Lyon is then dismissed by Steyn, Ponting plays a trademark pull shot for 3 but is then trapped in front by Philander. Plumb. And given out. In consultation with Clarke, Ponting reviews the decision. I doubt they would have reviewed it had it not been his last Test. Punter is out for 4 as the review confirms how plumb the LBW was. At least it looks like he’s guaranteed a second hit now. Steyn delivers an absolute jaffer to the in-form Clarke who is caught behind. We are now in more trouble than Kurt Tippett at 6/45. 225 seems a long way off.
Wade comes out playing his shots and looks impressive, while Mr Cricket scratched around for 40 balls before nicking a Morkel delivery to Smith. Wade brings up his 50 with his 3rd 6 off Robin Peterson, but is then tied down by the Proteas and in frustration plays a horrible sweep and is bowled for 68. Hastings plays well for 32 until he holes out off Peterson, all out for 163.
We need to come out hard against the Proteas in the second innings but the Aussies look strangely flat and the tourists score at will. Johnson is the only bowler who looks threatening despite being expensive, and he gets the wicket of Alviro Peterson for 23 with a great diving catch off his own bowling. Smith is joined by Amla and it’s like watching the highlights as the boundaries flow. There was a ridiculous quote from Malcolm Conn in Saturday’s Herald Sun, saying Ben Hilfenhaus will struggle to regain his place in the side after the performance of the Australian bowlers on Day 1. His economy is being missed now, I’m sure he and Siddle will be the first two bowlers picked for Hobart. Just when it looked like we would never again get another wicket, Smith pulls Starc into the outfield and is brilliantly caught by a diving Lyon who made enormous ground to get there. As good a catch as you will ever see. South Africa finish the day at 2/230, a lead of 292. Unless we get quick early wickets on Day 3 South Africa will win this match and the series. I don’t think we have the attack to do it though, without our 4 first choice quicks (Siddle, Pattinson, Hilfenhaus and Cummins). Amla resumes on 99, he batted beautifully and has had two fantastic series in Australia now, joining the likes of Tendulkar, Lara, Laxman and Cook as the best overseas batsmen to visit these shores in recent years. As for Punter, he will probably get to bat again late on day 3 or on day 4, hope he has some runs left in him, he deserves to finish on a higher note than his 4 innings in the series so far.