Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Perth, 2nd day

South Africa 'go hard' for Perth glory

Australia will have to be prepared to chase anything on a pitch where South Africa look increasingly at home

Firdose Moonda

December 1, 2012

Comments: 23 | Text size: A | A

Graeme Smith celebrates his half-century, Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, 2nd day, Perth, December 1, 2012
Graeme Smith added 178 in 25 overs in partnership with Hashim Amla for the second wicket © Associated Press

The joke is that Perth is a far-flung province of South Africa, given the number of immigrants who settled here, but Australia will not find it funny that their opposition seemed so at home at the WACA. South Africa's bowlers exploited conditions in the morning as though they had played there all their lives. Then Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla made it look like a completely different track in the evening to give South Africa a massive advantage with plenty of time to make it count.

To think that three days of the Test match remain and South Africa already have a second-innings lead of close to 300 runs is one way of explaining their dominance. To have watched Smith and Amla's stand of complete fluency is another.

Remarkably, there was no stage when the two looked like they were rushing, even though Matthew Wade said it felt like they were playing in "one-day mode". Their scoring rate was a shade under seven runs an over but there was no slogging. Rather there was an effortless acceleration, best encapsulated by Smith walking his across his stumps to dispatch everyone from John Hastings to Mitchell Johnson through his favoured on side.

Without looking at a wagon wheel it would be difficult to believe that Smith actually scored more runs on the off side this time. His cut shot and push through the covers made rare appearances as the Australia attack veered from bowling too straight to him to offering too much width. Amla had assistance too. In every over, there was a ball he could pull or drive and he did.

As much as Smith and Amla showed positive intent, Australia's attack lacked discipline, particularly in length. While South Africa's trio of quicks created pressure, Australia's were unable to dry up any run-scoring avenue even in the field, where they left gaps on both sides of the wicket for Smith and Amla to capitalise on.

Vernon Philander explained that the South Africa game plan was not specifically to "go hard" at the bowling but when they saw that they could, they cashed in. He said another "200 or 250" runs would leave South Africa feeling confident of a victory. If that were the case, they would probably begin bowling again late on the third day but so much time remains in this match that even if South Africa bat for five more sessions, they will still have four to bowl Australia out.

Time does not discriminate, though and the same amount that applies to South Africa will also be available to Australia. It could mean they would have as much as two days to chase a target at the same venue where South Africa successfully went out in search of 414 runs four years ago, so they may not mind what that target was.

Wade was realistic in his assessment that Australia would have to be up for anything. "Three hundred, 400, 500, whatever they post we have to chase to win the match and the series," he said. What seems certain is that there will be a result to decide where the Test mace will spend the next few months. It is also clear that the way that result goes hinges on South Africa's bowlers.

If they bowl like they did on the second morning, South Africa will be confident of remaining No. 1. Philander admitted that it finally felt as though the trio of pacemen clicked again, after underwhelming performances in Brisbane and Adelaide (which Philander missed through injury). "There was a bit more bounce, batsmen were playing off the back foot and it was something similar to what we have back home. There's also a little bit of movement and as soon as Steyn and I have movement, we can exploit it."

Steyn, in particular, was at his aggressive best, with 'white-line fever' coursing through his veins. Philander said it was "special" to share the ball with him.

They will have the chance to do that again once more in this match. Philander hopes they will connect as well as they did in the first innings, while Wade would like to see them tire. He said Australia's batsmen will want to have the three quicks returning for many spells to exhaust them. The match will end in a battle of firepower versus fortitude, which is how any contest for to decide the best in the world should be played out.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (December 2, 2012, 10:54 GMT)

Hey RJ I suppose most Saffers would be felling slightly smug right now but would you blame them. As for being lucky at being 0-0 in the series where's the luck?

Lucky test cricket isn't played over 6 days? Lucky a debutant could bat for a day and a bit? Lucky the aussies couldn't bowl line and length for 1.5 days? Lucky DRS reversed two clangers?

Wheels and round abouts mate, the moment you start bemoaning some one elses good fortune compared to your own that is when you loose your edge.

It's not over yet though so I'm not feeling to smug yet. I'd like to see the Aussies take this deep into the fith day for the sake of test cricket. I wouldn't mine the few extra grey hairs because I am loving every minute of this series.

Posted by gsingh7 on (December 2, 2012, 7:40 GMT)

come on south africa , beat aussies inside 4 days, i can see australia folding inside 200 again, cupboards seem bare for australia

Posted by RoJayao on (December 2, 2012, 7:37 GMT)

To be honest this is a fairly indicative result according to where the teams stand, despite Australia doing most of the running in the series til now. And no team in history has been able to change all it's fast bowlers from one match to the next and do well. This is the result against a good team with world class batsmen. I still think SA have a very unbalanced team though, effectively 8 batsmen and just 3 bowlers, despite Petersons 3 wickets, and that's not going to win too many test matches. They're murdering us in this test, but very lucky to still even be in the series, remember that smug Saffers!!

Posted by crashed on (December 2, 2012, 4:52 GMT)

@Kays789 if philander performed only on under performing test teams you must include Australia and England to both those underperforming cricket playing teams as he cut his teeth against Australia an got 5 fors against both australia and England ... hmmm rather look at the inexperienced bowling line-up Australia got now - i think you needed a siddle in the middle

Posted by Sinhaya on (December 2, 2012, 4:35 GMT)

South Africa played superbly and Aussies were no doubt badly missing the services of Hilfenhaus and Siddle.

Posted by jonesy2 on (December 2, 2012, 4:13 GMT)

south africa are perth glory supporters now? strange i didnt think south africans liked soccer. anyway whatever happens in this test is meaningless because the whole match his been built on an incorrect and immensely unfair decision against dave warner and australia whatever happens after that has no creedance (clearwater revival). as an aussie fan i know we have dominated south africa convincingly throughout the series and i take comfort in knowing who the better team is and who the better is going to be for the next 15 years, that goes for you too england. might sound petulant but it remains factual.

Posted by Basil777 on (December 2, 2012, 3:33 GMT)

Best bowling attack in the world and Vern is a key part of that; smug or not Vern is something special now Aussies will now they playing the best in the world

Posted by Saffaboy77 on (December 2, 2012, 3:29 GMT)

not to mention that the series south africa went to play england was right off the thrashing they gave australia which was a white wash and england were ranked as the number team in the world so i wouldnt be saying his under achieved ..

Posted by Slysta on (December 2, 2012, 2:34 GMT)

Mate, Philander is just telling it how it is. Even implicit in his wording is that he does need a little bit of assistance, and when he doesn't get it (like in Brisbane) he can be a tad toothless. But he has assistance here, and his use of it was superb. Those LBWs against Watson and Ponting were straight out of the Terry Alderman playbook - the sort of thing that Hilfenhaus should be able to do but can't. You have to give Philander and Steyn enormous credit - Cowan and Warner were both dismissed a bit carelessly, but the rest of our top order (and Nathan Lyon) did little wrong: they were removed by high-class bowlers using the available assistance to perfect advantage. Perhaps Morkel's dismissal of Hussey was best of all, because conditions were better for batting, but he was still able to pin Hussey down that end and build pressure until he cracked. And it wasn't like Hussey didn't know it was happening - he wanted to get off strike but couldn't. And then the evening session...

Posted by   on (December 1, 2012, 22:34 GMT)

@ Kays789, "Smug". In case you don't believe in stats, just go to hawk-eye, get he wicket keepers view and see for yourself just how accurate he is. How he forces the batsman to play and turning it both ways, meticulous line and length. When you play in the number one team you helped to that rating, and winning an away series, you sound smug to the opposition.

Posted by MSCologne on (December 1, 2012, 21:59 GMT)

They'll set about 500 and bowl them out for 200 I reckon'. Briliant performance.

Posted by Kays789 on (December 1, 2012, 21:31 GMT)

Let me qualify that previous comment. it's not just this interview. the interviews in england, the tweets when he didn't win anything at the icc awards (rightfully so as sangakkara deserved it more) and yes the interview here as well. getting to 50 in record time is well and good but it's just a start. nothing more nothing less. has he performed in less seamer-friendly conditions yet to 'prove' himself? clearly not. maybe i'm wrong but he seemingly can't help but sound full himself when he speaks.

Posted by Chris_Howard on (December 1, 2012, 21:13 GMT)

Gutless effort by Australia. And I don't mean their batsmen or their bowlers. It was a gutless effort by whoever ordered the flat tracks for Brisbane and Adelaide to negate the SA bowlers.

Posted by   on (December 1, 2012, 20:34 GMT)

@kays789 you can't really say Philander is smug talking how good Steyn bowled... The "underperforming" teams included the Aussies and England in England on pitches not really super seamer wickets. He paid his dues in first class cricket, got his chance and took it (second fastest man to 50 wickets) if you want to wait till he takes another hundred wickets before you realize he is a good bowler, be our guest.

Posted by hst84 on (December 1, 2012, 19:55 GMT)

@Kays789: dont worry bud, atleast he's taking wickets at home :)

Posted by   on (December 1, 2012, 19:08 GMT)

@Kays789...yeah I get the same feeling! However, the man has achieved much in case you haven't noticed?? i.e. fastest man to 50 test wickets in over 100 YEARS! SA Sportsman of the year etc. As for 'under-performing' teams which also happen to be the top teams, (Austrailia, New Zealand (in NZ), Sri Lanka, England (In England) which is ALL the teams he has played ...As for this series, he's missed the 2nd Test and in the first test pretty much all the S.A bowlers were rubbish, Bowled well in the 1st innings of this test too...'conquered the world' don't you agree? One average series and suddenly he's not SPECIAL? to quote Philander himself "STATS Don't Lie" Arrogant but he's backed it up!

Posted by Wexfordwonder on (December 1, 2012, 19:01 GMT)

@ Kays I have never thought of Stern Vern as arrogant and it may just be that his tone is hard to read in print. To be fair he has achieved somewhat so far being one of the fastest to take 50 wickets and he does have an average of 17 odd with the ball. Now I know that he still needs to prove he can maintain this but he has made about as good a start as can be expected. He has also scored a test 50. Anyway, I am not saying he is not arrogant, maybe he is, I just have not noticed it.

Posted by wrongun77 on (December 1, 2012, 18:56 GMT)

@ Kays789 where do you get off ? his interview was very sedate and he was just expressing his thoughts on the game, you need to go look at his record and realize how good he's been regardless of opponent, if you are an Aussie then i guess it's just sour grapes, YOU MAD BRO?

it must be hard to take that the Proteas are probably gonna win the series when the Aussies have battled so hard to get on top the whole series, this is why the Proteas are number 1.

Posted by crashed on (December 1, 2012, 18:33 GMT)

wade be carefull what you wish for you might just get more than you are bargaining for :)

Posted by   on (December 1, 2012, 17:36 GMT)

Steyn and Philander shouldn;t be too tired after 16 overs each, and Morkel bowled even fewer

Posted by Kays789 on (December 1, 2012, 17:12 GMT)

is it just me or does this philander guy come off as really smug? you haven't achieved anything yet mate. taking a bunch of wickets against a couple of under-performing teams at home doesn't make you special at all. nothing of note so far in this series either. but his attitude befits one that has conquered the world! too funny.

Posted by GlobalCricketLover on (December 1, 2012, 16:43 GMT)

Dont think anything less than 550 would be set as target.. knowing how many overs are still left in the game.

Posted by   on (December 1, 2012, 14:57 GMT)

Well played south Africa, I must admit it is great watching Mitch Johnson bowl pies and laugh it off once again. If only Piddle Siddle was bowling, and showing heart and anger. maybe we would still be in the game!.

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