I’m still a bit amazed at the finish to the second South Africa v Australia Test. Australia won by 2 wickets after the advantage had changed hands several times. Pat Cummins, the eighteen year old on debut, hit the winning runs after coming within about a centimetre of being LBW on review. (He was struck in line, but not so much as to overturn the umpire’s decision.)
Australia were probably deserved winners. They put their previous collapses behind them and managed to put together timely partnerships. The individuals who were under the most pressure to perform did so; Ponting made 62 and Haddin 55. Hussey also chipped in with some useful runs in a partnership with Haddin that put Australia in the ascendancy after the early wickets of Clarke and Ponting. Mitchell Johnson continues to look better with the bat than with the ball; he scored an unbeaten 40 that went a long way to winning Australia the match. His contribution might be a bit overlooked with the headlines about Cummins, but it was probably more important and at least as important as Haddin’s 55. The manner of the result probably eases some of the pressure on the selectors. They could probably justify naming an unchanged XI for the first Test against New Zealand. (Though they did so after the win at Perth last year and we know how well that turned out.) I would still drop Johnson. Australia may hove lost this Test without his batting, but the rest of the bowling attack has had to carry him this series. I don’t think they can go on like that.
It could be, and probably will be, said that South Africa choked. I certainly made that joke on Twitter when Australia looked like they were going to cruise to victory. It probably isn’t fair, but they did not play as well as they ought to have. Smith’s bowling decisions and field placings as Haddin and Hussey betted were not particularly sensible. At the time he had runs with which to play, but neither really attacked nor really defended. The batsmen could and did find the gaps and were not under a lot of pressure. His best decision was to take the new ball straightaway, but it transpired that it was not quite enough. The deciding point was probably when Steyn dropped a sharp return chance off Cummins with nine still to win. The TV was showing Nathan Lyon looking so nervous that it is hard to imagine that he would have survived long. We’ll never know, unfortunately. More unfortunately we won’t get a deciding Test match after the two thrillers to which we have been treated. Hopefully the absurdity of this will sound a wake up call to the administrators.