Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 2nd day November 23, 2012

The reality of the morning after

The cricket on day one was unbelievable; the play on the second day was more sober and conventional

Day two of the Adelaide Test was also the morning after. Not that giddy, crazy, uproarious stuff of the first day, when the impossible seemed to take place on a regular basis.

Instead, the Oval witnessed a succession of the events more usually associated with the five-day game: a well-established overnight batsman departing early, a tail failing to wag much, a gritty opening stand, a missed stumping, a run-out, a disputed caught-behind appeal and a tense last hour when the possibility of critical wickets hung heavily in the air without ever quite falling.

All these episodes were fascinating, intriguing and occasionally bracing. But the lack of the extraordinary allowed time for a better appreciation of the frankly ridiculous passages that had begun this match. It was the sort of opening chapter to a Test match that a crowd of 16,512 at the ground, and however many more on television and radio, may never see the like of again.

Australia's unbridled aggression with the bat, personified by David Warner but then refined and perfected by Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey, was stunning. Warner and Clarke in particular will remain in the mind's eye for how heedless they were to the match scenario that confronted them. Early wickets most often force the construction of a grafting recovery, but theirs was a counterattack so complete and so rapid as to have been stolen from the pages of Adam Gilchrist's autobiography.

One of Gilchrist's most memorable ripostes to a dire top-order showing was a union with Matthew Hayden in Mumbai in 2001, when on a sharply spinning pitch they flayed India for 197 runs in 32 overs. Warner and Clarke piled up 155 in 24 overs, albeit on a surface far more friendly. Where Mumbai was outstripped was the fact that Warner's dismissal allowed Clarke to form another partnership with Hussey that was equally destructive in terms of impact but far more prolific for runs, 272 in little more than half a day's play.

A scoreboard reading 5 for 482 at the close was one of those sights that require photographic evidence to prove beyond doubt that it actually took place. The board and its remarkable set of numbers was still there in the morning, providing a reminder that the first day had indeed been a brief and glorious reality as opposed to a feverish, hypnotic dream.

Upon resumption, there was still the fleeting thought of another day for the dreamers, particularly those who pondered Clarke's proximity to the world record Test score. That bubble was to be quickly burst with the delivery that Morne Morkel speared between the bat and pad of Clarke in the day's fifth over, a moment that offered consolation for South Africa but also a reminder of how much mental and physical energy Clarke had expended in playing such a collector's item of an innings the afternoon before.

Clarke's wicket, and the others that soon followed in its wake, served as a reminder not only of how this South African bowling attack is far from the helpless ensemble they had appeared at times on day one, but also of exactly how courageous Australia's batsmen had been to keep attacking when risking further wickets. By the time the hosts were bowled out for 550, their innings bore a strong resemblance to an exaggerated Coke bottle, thin at either end but bulging to great effect in the middle. As had been the case last summer, Australia's batting order in this series is not a fully functioning unit, rather a collective owing much to the strength provided in the middle by Clarke and Hussey.

Where those batsmen had reached such outlandish heights, their team-mates in Australia's bowling attack found the going predictably harder. Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen knuckled down, ignoring the scoreboard and their own fatigue to ensure there would be no rush of wickets with the new ball, which was perhaps pitched a little too short, too often by Ben Hilfenhaus and James Pattinson. Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon were economical enough, but it said much that the first clear chance of the innings was created by Clarke's part-time spin, the first wicket for a bowler falling to Warner's speculative leg breaks.

South Africa were kept quiet throughout, Smith compiling a diligent and determined century but never getting away from Australia's bowlers in the manner Warner, Clarke and Hussey had streaked out of reach of South Africa's. His elusion of a concerted appeal by James Pattinson for a catch at the wicket exposed the apparent ambiguities of Hot-Spot technology, something Ricky Ponting seemed keen to underline after Richard Kettleborough's original verdict was overturned.

The visitors' defiance could be admired, but not necessarily loved - they did what they had to do, but dared not do more than that. Runs ticked by at a steady 3 per over, and not a single six was hit. Without the services of Jacques Kallis until later in the innings, there was less room for aggression than usual, and in Smith's missed stumping and the successful stumping of Hashim Amla were sound warnings of what may happen should a batsman be lured out.

At the end Smith tucked away a single and Jacques Rudolph played out the final over from Lyon with due deference. Players on both sides were greeted with appreciation, but something less than wonder and rapture. The unthinkable had happened yesterday. Today was more a day for the thinkable.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 23, 2012, 23:17 GMT

    This really has to be one of the most ridiculous cricket commentaries ever. Highlight is "not a single six was hit". Hilarious.

  • Paul on November 23, 2012, 21:45 GMT

    Whinging Aussies...there's nothing wrong with the technology, it simply proved that Smith did not get a nick. Not out, end of story. And the fact that the Aussies went up in unison - Hussey, too, who has since told us he didn't hear a nick - says nothing. They've been going up in unison for dodgy decisons for ages and got away with absolutle murder - read McGarth and Warne...and yes, that supposed saint, Adam Gilchrist, who was guilty of appealing for trash on many, many occasion - in the days predecing DRS.

  • Dummy4 on November 23, 2012, 21:13 GMT

    Good point hraghava it might pay for the Aussies and their rabid supporters to calm down. What the writer does not mention of course is that the South Africans lost two key bowlers within 24hrs, the one (Kallis) who was starting to make a major contribution until he had to leave the field.

  • j on November 23, 2012, 19:51 GMT

    SA finally woke up and bowled one straight at Clarke. They won't make the same mistake twice. Wade confirmed as the worst keeper/batsman in the world (he really should look at how Prior bats, but you do have to have the talent after all) and Lyon continues his ineffectiveness. Bring back Warne!

  • Marcio on November 23, 2012, 15:17 GMT

    @hraghava, what you write has nothing whatsoever to do with the incredible run fest on day one here. The article is not about innings totals, but the pace at which runs are scored in one day. It is certainly something I have never seen before and which I shall remember for a long time.

  • Brian on November 23, 2012, 10:46 GMT

    Could you suggest to the S. A. brains trust that Tahir and Morkel be sent in next so as Kallis does not have to bat with the tail? It could tire the bowlers a little and have them deal with Kallis, A B, Faf , Kleinveldt and Seyn with an older ball. ,

  • Dummy4 on November 23, 2012, 10:18 GMT

    balderdash.. Smith was not out as Clarke and Hussey had been not out the previous day. Ponting and yourself should just jump with your questioning of Hot Spot when it goes against the Aussies.. Bloody agents

  • Dummy4 on November 23, 2012, 10:14 GMT

    Typical Saffer batting reply, dour, and not wanting to take the game on, and try and force a result. Safety first, is Saffer`s thinking, when in fact pushing hard to win, and force a result, would be the teams best philosophy. We lost a days play, in Brisbane too rain, and the Aussies` would have won this game except for the rain, and the negative play of the Saffers. Today, Smith and the other batters, had the chance to give it back too the Aussies, on a placid 2nd day Adelaide wicket, it is only going to deteriate, now. Realistically Saffer`s, should have been close to 400, by now. I hate negative Cricket Captaincy, and a negative approach, to the greatest game in the world, play your shots, bowl your heart out, play for Victory, first and foremost.

  • Hari on November 23, 2012, 9:27 GMT

    Hmm.... In 2 previous Adelaide tests, side batting first scores 500+ and lost (2003-2004 & 2006-2007). Could lightning strike a third time? In 2003-04, Australia scored 550+ in quick time, secured a thin lead and collapsed 2nd time. The same happened to England in the 2nd Ashes test in 2006! It's going to be an interesting 4th & 5th days if South Africa can come within 50 runs of Australia.

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