Wickets tumble on dramatic day at Newlands


Records tumbled almost as fast as wickets on the second day of the first Test between South Africa and Australia.

Records tumbled almost as fast as wickets on the second day of the first Test between South Africa and Australia, and at the end of it all the match was set up for an intriguing finale on Friday.

The statisticians were kept busy on a sunny day at Newlands when 23 wickets fell and both sides were dismissed in an innings for less than a hundred, with the net result that South Africa will go into day three on 81 for one in their second innings, needing a further 155 runs to go one-nil up in the series.

It was just the second day in Test history that all four innings had flowed onto the same day. Australia resumed on 214 for eight and were bowled out for 284. They then looked to have ended South Africa's hopes of winning the two-Test series and retaining their No. 2 ranking when they bowled the hosts out for 96, only for the match to turn its head once more as Australia were dismissed for 47.

The day started with Australia adding 70 to their overnight total thanks to a 59-run stand for the ninth wicket between Peter Siddle and Michael Clarke, whose magnificent 151 assumed Godly proportions as the day wore on.

Just four batsmen managed to hit double figures in South Africa's first innings and Australia's second as the bowlers ran riot, with the carnage beginning in the first over after lunch.

South Africa had reached lunch on a comfortable 49 for one, only for bedlam to break loose in the second session as 12 wickets went down. It was a curious passage of play, and on reflection it was sparked by Shane Watson showing the bowlers that the simple tactic of bowling at the stumps would reap dividends in conditions offering some lateral movement.

Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis were both dispatched in the over after lunch, and Graeme Smith and Ashwell Prince followed from consecutive deliveries four overs later, as Watson shot through the top and middle order.

Ryan Harris backed that up with the wickets of AB de Villiers, Vernon Philander and Imran Tahir, while Morne Morkel was run out, as South Africa lost nine wickets for 47 runs in a storm of nicks, lbws and trips to the third umpire which largely benefited the DRS-hardened Australians.

It gave the tourists a first innings lead of 188, but it took just three deliveries for the boot to switch to the other foot. This time Watson missed a trick as he failed to review an lbw decision when hawk-eye had Dale Steyn's delivery travelling over the top of the stumps.

In the blink of an eye, and several flashes of Vernon Philander's delivery stride, Australia were 21 for nine and facing the lowest total in Test history. Philander had trapped Ricky Ponting, Clarke and Shaun Marsh lbw, and had Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson caught in a five-wicket haul on debut.

A last-wicket partnership of 26 between Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon avoided some thoroughly unwanted records for Australia, but when Steyn removed Lyon for an innings-high score of 14, Australia had still only extended their lead to 235 after an astonishing passage of play.

Somehow, calm was restored when South Africa returned to the crease, and having begun the day in control they ended it in control as well, with Smith not out on 36 and Amla unbeaten on 29. Of course it couldn't end tamely, and instead closed with Michael Hussey dropping Amla in the gully off the final delivery of one of the most remarkable days in Test history.

<b>Tristan Holme at Newlands</b>