Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 4th day November 25, 2012

South Africa wave the white flag

South Africa don't look anything like the side that dominated England earlier this year and if it is killer instinct they are lacking in, they are in some trouble

When firecrackers fizzle out there is usually only darkness left behind. AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis are two of the most exciting batsmen on the circuit, known for their ability to rotate strike, but they are in the middle of what is, so far, the second-lowest stand in terms of run-rate (150 balls minimum) of the last 22 years. By stumps on day four in Adelaide they had added 32 runs in partnership, off 29 overs, to blot South Africa out of contention and raise the white flag at Adelaide Oval.

"We know that 350 on the last day with four wickets down is probably out of the window," Russell Domingo, South Africa's assistant coach, said. De Villiers and du Plessis' partnership included 14 maiden overs, with seven out of the last nine overs in the day going for no runs, and 150 dot balls.

For two live wires, that would have taken an enormous amount of patience, perhaps driven by the knowledge that they had to consolidate first. With South Africa at 45 for 4, a swift end was likely but the two school friends wanted to go down with dignity instead.

More of the same can be expected from them tomorrow, although Domingo said South Africa would try to be as "positive as we possibly can in defence". Taking a drawn series to Perth is priority, one they'll much prefer to a must-win scenario to hold on to the world No. 1 ranking.

For that reason, Jacques Kallis was padded up for the entire third session and will bat even if he has to do so all day. Kallis has all but been ruled out of the Perth Test, so preserving his fitness for that seems to have taken a backseat to getting as much out of him as needs be to save this game.

Kallis will aggravate his grade 1 hamstring strain injury while batting, but has received enough physiotherapy to be in minimal pain at the moment. "His mobility when batting is not a major concern, it's his mobility with running that's the main issue," Domingo said. "The short-ball bouncers and getting out of the way might be a concern, but his mobility with batting is fine."

Domingo hopes the rest can emulate Kallis' resolve. "South Africans pride themselves on our resilience and we are a side that will fight right until the end. There is an opportunity for somebody to make a major play for his country."

That may end up being secondary to the post mortems that will have to be done in the next three days. South Africa's strategies are under the microscope with regards to certain selections; players such as Imran Tahir and Jacques Rudolph are at risk of losing their places in the XI.

Domingo laid blame for the situation they find themselves in on a lack of killer instinct, the same affliction that seemed to grip them in Brisbane. "We just weren't able to maintain any sort of pressure with the ball. We seemed to release pressure a little too easily. We weren't able to dry up an end, and there were runs flowing both sides of the wicket.

"And then there were a couple of soft dismissals in our top order. We know all our players have got unbelievable records and have put together some unbelievable performances, and I suppose those things [failures] are inclined to happen some of the time."

Ultimately it seems as though the match was gone as early as the first day, even though South Africa fought back to threaten parity. "We couldn't believe what had happened after the first day's play," Domingo said. "At lunch, we thought we were in a good position and then we bowled a few soft balls and just gave away momentum."

Having worked so hard for so long to be able to deliver in key moments, South Africa look a shade of the side that dominated England just three months ago. The opposition is different, the conditions are different and the injury situation is different. But cynics would say it is the same old South Africa whose fight has left them, not the South Africa of 2008-09 who were driven by gutsiness. If that is the case, the darkness is indeed foreboding.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Girik on November 26, 2012, 0:26 GMT

    The batting always looked weaker with Rudolph in it. They've had their injuries and for the others like Amla, they were bound to run into a period of bad form after some unbelievably good years. The key to any No. 1 side is depth, and the South Africans don't have enoguh depth in batting (hence selecting Rudolph) or with their pace bowling (Kleinveldt). And of course they have zero depth with their spin bowling unless they want to bring back Paul Harris who is still better than slow right-arm full tosser Tahir. Of course, Australia's XI has big holes too with Quiney and Ponting being liabilities too but the rest are clicking more frequently.

  • Christian on November 26, 2012, 0:17 GMT

    As an Australian, I found the S-Af. approach unfathomable. Between du Plessis & de Villiers, they are looking at scoring around 150 runs each at just over 3 runs per over to win the test match. Kallis, one of the greats, is still to come. Surely you have to back yourself to win? As it stands, they are saying "We are so confident that we are not up to the task, we are not even going to try." So it will be no surprise when they're facing 7 slips, bat pad and a leg slip by the end of the day. Day 4 was Graeme Smith's side in a nutshell: plenty of talent, but a terrible attitude and appalling tactics.

  • Brian on November 25, 2012, 22:40 GMT

    As an avid defender of Smith's captaincy - his success record is sufficient proof - I must confess being totally bemused by some of his recent tactics. Bowling an unprepared Faf to enable an end change just after lunch on Day 1; persevering with spin and not taking the new ball when available; not starting the morning with Steyn on Day 4; sending Rudolph instead of Faf for Kallis. If he no longer wants to captain, Alviro, with his county and provincial eperience, could lead the side. The best chance to win in Perth, presuming Kallis is unavailable, would be to replace he, Tahir and Rudolph with Philander, Elgar and Robber Pietersen. The latter at No. 7 is likely to get more than Rudolph has provided. I'm not that confident of Elgar, but he deserves a chance and can bowl a few overs if needed.

  • Peter on November 25, 2012, 22:40 GMT

    I don't understand this mindset. They have always looked to be positive in run chases, yet with Kallis's injury have chosen not to be positive. What will happen in the future when Kallis retires? Come on guys, you got to #1 by being positive, keep it going.

  • Sanjay on November 25, 2012, 22:15 GMT

    @RoJayao spot on. Changes are needed. Rudolph does not seem to provide the middle order stability needed. Leave in Faf and drop Rudolph. Spin bowling continues to thwart the team who have a very strong fast bowling group. Smith might step down soon. De Velliers will struggle to captain, bat and keep as well.

  • Eoin on November 25, 2012, 20:44 GMT

    Faf is most def not the most exciting batsman on the circuit. When SA are under pressure they lock up and life all of a sudden looks very difficult. They make things so hard for themselves its like the opposition has cast some sort of spell on them. Aus batsmen have treated the SA bowlers with such carefree disdain and all SA can reply with is the 2nd lowest stand. AB should've learnt from Warner that theirs no shame in playing your natural game even in test cricket

  • Dummy4 on November 25, 2012, 18:12 GMT

    Time to correct the selection failures: - drop Rudolf, who has been dismal since his reintroduction, and bring in Tsolekile to keep for de Villiers, which should give him the opportunity to focus on his batting. Tsolekile can't do worse than Rudolf as a batsman! - drop Tahir (he's so down on confidence it's going to take months (years) before anyone, himself included, has confidence in him) and bring in Peterson. - drop Kleinveldt (where has happened to our up-and-coming bowlers??)... hopefully Philander is fit. And give everyone (Kirsten included) a royal kick up the arse!

  • Dummy4 on November 25, 2012, 18:10 GMT

    Being a big fan of SA, I have been shocked with how things have unlfolded in the last 4 days. Here are the changes I suggest

    1. Replace Imran Tahir with Robin Peterson, Tahir needs to go back to domestic cricket

    2. Rudoulph needs to be replaced, even though Elgar is inexpereinced, he wont do worse than Rudoulph

    3. Interesting to see how Aussie bowlers were able to dry up runs, SA needs to seriously look into this strategy.

  • Inam on November 25, 2012, 17:16 GMT

    SA find a WK and make AB captain. Attack and don't give opposition any chance. SA was too defensive in their field placing and too slow while batting, if they have played positively is first inning the lead will be less and Aus will be on defensive side when they started loosing wicket in 2nd inning.

  • Colin on November 25, 2012, 12:45 GMT

    I cannot understand the Proteas recent poor performance, they appear to leave getting good scores to a few batsmen the same goes for their bowling it is just not what it used to be. Perhaps the team has totally lost interest, well so it appears. I can see them sliding off the world number one down to 4 or 5. It is a pity bercause they used to be so predictable.

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