Five-fer: A day of contrasts at Newlands


Day four of the third Test in Cape Town was overshadowed by the retirement of Proteas skipper Graeme Smith, and his subsequent failure with the bat, while the Aussies were bound and determined to push for the win.

Day four of the third Test in Cape Town was overshadowed by the retirement of Proteas skipper Graeme Smith, and his subsequent failure with the bat, while the Aussies were bound and determined to push for the win.

The Aussies declared on 303 for five, holding a lead of 510 runs, and at stumps the Proteas sat on 71 for four, needing another marathon batting effort from their middle order to save the match.

<b>1. Not Bradmanesque, But Almost</b>

Batting legend Sir Donald Bradman ended his Test career with an infamous duck. South Africa skipper Graeme Smith was not quite as unlucky, but found his final innings with a protea on his chest lacking, recorded as a '3' by the scorers. It lasted for 16 minutes.

It was a sombre day for Biff, not least because his side could not buy a wicket for love or money, and David Freakin' Warner once again flayed the hosts to all parts of the ground. And the lump in the throat continued after the declaration.

The Aussies formed a guard of honour, made famous by Smith himself when he started the recent trend of opposition players standing to attention, when Ricky Ponting retired in 2012. Fittingly, Biff's final knock was as brief as Punter's, who was out for eight.

<b>2. Oh, To Find An Opener</b>

Smith's retirement leaves a gaping hole in terms of his captaincy, and all the talk has been about his replacement in that role. But what people have not focused on is the fact that an opening batsman, who averages nearly 50 despite recent form, is gone.

This wouldn't be so bad if the other opener were in fine fettle, but Alviro Petersen could find himself dropped before he has a chance to retire, and then the Proteas would be two down. What then? Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock as the new top pairing…?

That combination would resemble David Warner and Chris Rogers' current combo: One the solid anchor and the other the flashy strokemaker, except neither of the Saffers have a track record to speak of. 'Tis a conundrum.

<b>3. The Best In The World?</b>

The question was posed on Twitter: Is David Warner the best opening batsman in the world? An on current form, astonishingly, one has to say that yes, he is. The guy who started his career as a nobody brought into the T20 side, has blossomed into a double centurion.

Warner added another century on day four to the one he made in the first innings, racing from 25 overnight to 145 when he departed before tea. He was out in an innocuous manner, and Kyle Abbott couldn't even be bothered to celebrate.

This knock, added to the 161 he made a few days ago, and the ton he made in the first Test took his tally in the series to543, nearly 200 runs more than the next guy, AB de Villiers. By contrast, Smith made 45 runs in the same number of knocks.

<b>4. What Have You Done With Bucky?!</b>

Another contrast on day four was Chris Rogers' madcap innings, which had viewers gaping in astonishment early in the morning. The usually sedate and composed opener began the day on one off 19 balls, and was out for 39 off 67.

That may not seem like a huge acceleration, but Rogers was playing shots reserved for the IPL, shots no-one outside of a silly-buggers session in the nets would have seen. Reverse sweeping, hooking, pads sweeps, you name it. He was out in T20 fashion too, run out for a second time in two games.

<b>5. Quick, Quick, Slooooow…</b>

Australia started the day on 27 for none, and declared well before tea on 303 for five. They batted at a cracking pace, and the word the commentators used most was 'boundary'. They went at more than five to the over all day, showing how not-slow the pitch was.

Then, the Proteas found themselves 15 for three at tea, a window of half an hour suddenly making the deck unplayable. Well, it didn't help that Mitchell Johnson was going at 150kp/h, and Dale Steyn was out of commission.

The evening session was one of attrition, as Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers nearly managed to see out the extended period unscathed. They batted at less than two to the over, ignoring rank long hops in favour of a forward defensive.

Amla could not maintain this stasis, and was out for 41 off 109 balls, while AB, one of the most fluid batsmen in the game, reached stumps on 16 off 100 balls. At the close in Adelaide a year and a bit ago, SA were on 77/4 going into the final day. Now they're on 71/4, with Faf du Plessis still to come.

Can it be repeated? Can the Proteas prevent their six-year unbeaten streak from being demolished. Day five will be TENSE, y'all.

<b>Lindsay du Plessis</b>