Australia 10/322. South Africa wins Third Test by 302 runs and series 1-0.
“Coll-ing-wood, Coll-ing-wood, Coll-ing-wood” that moronic refrain of few words echoed around the concrete jungle of the MCG. It’s AFL Grand Final day, my team, my beloved team, is ten goals down at three-quarter time. Kicking into a howling gale for the last quarter offers little hope of winning. Rain is belting down, Collingwood fans are going berserk, Joffa has put on his gold jacket and hat and someone is gleefully waving a “Game Over” sign. I’m sitting amongst a sea of black and white in the outer, the imminent apparent and still thirty minutes to go. No matter how hard I urge and will my team on it only gets worse, and worse. I’m soaked through. Pondering what could have been isn’t worth the effort. This is a nightmare of the mammoth proportions. Moisture dribbles down my face, and thankfully hides my tears of despair from everyone. This is any football followers worst possible nightmare, unless of course, you’re a Collingwood supporter!
But it’s sweat dripping down my face, a cold sweat as I jerk awake from this horrible nightmare as unbelievably I realise, in fact it is a nightmare, I had been dreaming this nightmare! My team didn’t lose, Collingwood didn’t win, it was all a dream. Phew! And it’s not even footy season!
Unfortunately for the Australian team as they woke this morning for day four of this test match it wasn’t a dream but a nightmare, a real nightmare and one with harrowing implications confronting them. Did the team we had placed so much faith in have the mental capacity and nerve to pull off a miraculous victory? This would require the team to bat like no other test team has ever batted before in the history of test cricket. Someone would have to make a score of epic proportions and probably at least another two batsmen had to be century makers if we hoped to remain competitive in the match. And could we bat for two full days on this wicket after our confidence was so convincingly shattered in the first innings and after toiling so despairingly in the field as South Africa amassed their formidable score sapping our mental and energy levels even further? The task seemed daunting especially if the South Africans continued to bowl well.
Warner out second ball of the morning unfortunately set the proceedings for the rest of the day and the innings. It was a nightmare. The contrast between the two teams became more and more pronounced the further the innings progressed. For the Proteas the bowling was line and length working hard to exploit the perceived weaknesses of each batsmen. And they maintained that relentless pressure with great effect. For the Aussie batsmen their deficiencies were further exposed and emphasised by this constant pressure applied by the opposition bowlers. The mental aptitude of being able to dig in and grind out an innings just seems to be lacking in some of our batsmen. They continue to display the same weaknesses in technique time and time again but don’t appear to learn from these mistakes. And consequently these weaknesses are continually exploited by good bowlers.
Eventually the moment we have all been waiting for finally arrives with the fall of Watson’s wicket. A standing ovation greets Ponting and follows him all the way to the wicket. All very emotional stuff, lots of tears welling up in eyes, lumps in throats and everyone hoping against hope that Ricky has a blinder. Graeme Smith and his team form a guard of honour which is a gentlemanly gesture with Ponting responding with a shake of the captain’s hand. Maybe the cynic in me comes out at this moment. Perhaps Smith remembers Bradman’s last innings. Yardley calling his players around for three cheers and the doffing of caps as Bradman reached the wicket only to last two balls before being bowled by WE Hollies. Some say the Don didn’t see the ball because of tears in his eyes! Would the emotion get to Ponting and could Smith use it to his advantage? History shows Ricky did not play a blinder but got out to a rather ordinary shot in the end suggesting his retirement was timely.
Sad to see the greats of the game bow out when they do but time comes eventually to all who play the game. I’m sure he is extremely proud of his wonderful career.
I must admit my interest in the game waned with Ponting’s wicket. The unexpected simply was not going to happen and Clarke’s stumping made it inevitable. A spirited rear guard flurry from Starc and Lyon provided some entertainment and saving grace at the end of the innings if only to prolong the wait by the Proteas to celebrate their victory.
So South Africa retain their number one cricket position and you would have to say deservedly so. Australia had their chances but just couldn’t provide the knockout blow when the opportunities arose. The rotation of the strike bowlers will continue to be debated as will the capabilities of some of our batsmen. Pity this was not a full Test program. Boxing Day at the MCG would have been a cracker!
I wonder if I will have any nightmares tonight?