Australia v South Africa, 1st Test, Perth, 2nd day December 18, 2008

Decisions, decisions

There were a few nerves from South African fans at the WACA when Graeme Smith's elbow required treatment from the physio Shane Jabaar © Getty Images

Trusting one umpire …
Jason Krejza must have wished the referral system was being used in this series when he struck Graeme Smith on the pad in his first over. Krejza was coming around the wicket to the left-hander and Smith missed a ball that went straight on with the arm. Despite a loud shout from the Australians, Aleem Dar turned the decision down and it was a fair call as there was enough doubt, even though replays suggested it may have hit the top of the stumps. But it had a distinctly familiar look to the first decision that was overturned in the current New Zealand-West Indies series, when Chris Gayle rapped Daniel Flynn on the pads and referred the not-out call to the third umpire, who advised the standing official that it was out.

… and correcting another
Critics of the referral system have argued that it leaves the on-field umpires with little to do but count the balls and if that is the case, Dar and Asoka De Silva might want to brush up on their maths. On the first day Dar called a five-ball over from Dale Steyn before correcting his error and making Steyn bowl the last delivery. Today it was De Silva's turn. Peter Siddle had sent down five balls when De Silva called over and immediately the phone in the scorers' box rang. It was the TV official Paul Reiffel confirming the count. He relayed the information to De Silva, by then at square leg for the next over, who asked Siddle to send down a sixth ball. It was an exhausting delivery - most of the players were in position for the next over when the decision was rectified.

Pen mightier than the needle
Graeme Smith has had problems with his right elbow since August, when he cut short his tour of England to rest the troublesome joint. There were therefore a few nerves from South African fans at the WACA when the same elbow required treatment from the physio Shane Jabaar during Smith's innings of 48. Jabaar appeared to be pumping some sort of device into Smith's elbow and there was confusion as to whether it was a pain-killing injection. But the apparatus is known as the pain-gone pen and sends an electronic impulse into the bloodstream that wakes up the body's own pain-relieving properties. A South African team spokesman said Smith felt a jarring in the joint after a Peter Siddle delivery hit the splice of the bat. No further treatment was required and Smith went on to add 28 to his score after the incident.

Clarke gets the thumbs up
A cracked thumb forced Ashwell Prince out of the Test and Australia had a similar concern over one of their key batsmen when Michael Clarke headed off to hospital at lunch to have an x-ray on his right thumb. Clarke had suffered the problem when he was fielding in the cordon and dived to stop a low edge from Neil McKenzie. The 12th man Shane Watson occupied Clarke's spot at third slip for much of the second session but the news was good for Australia - Clarke's x-rays revealed no fracture and he was back in a catching position before tea.

VVS flashbacks
Australia have been tormented by VVS Laxman over the years and they were given a vision of a similar batsman who could well trouble them in the future. Hashim Amla is arguably the most improved Test batsman over the past year and he looked set for a big score with his wristy work at the WACA. One flick over midwicket for four off Peter Siddle was particularly impressive and the Australians were slightly concerned when he raced to an attractive 47 from 67 balls. Fortunately for Ricky Ponting's men, Krejza made the breakthrough when he drifted a superb offspinner through the gate. Still, it was a promising start in Amla's first international of any sort against Australia.

AB online
Iain O'Brien raised his profile during the Australia-New Zealand series by writing a daily blog and now it's AB de Villiers' turn, whose own website features a tour diary that is updated every day. He's even so intent on drawing in readers that he has the address printed on his bat. The early entries don't quite go into as much detail as O'Brien's musings but it's an interesting continuation in the trend of Test players recording their thoughts for all to see.

Fastest of the fast
The match was hyped for its quick bowling potential and the South African attack was the centre of much attention in the lead-up, with Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel identified as two super-fast men who could thrive on the WACA pitch. But in the end, neither breached the 150kph mark on the opening day and it was Mitchell Johnson who won the initial battle for the quickest delivery. In Johnson's second over he became the first man for the match to nudge past 150kph although he did have the advantage of bowling on the second day - the WACA pitch generally quickens up as the match wears on.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo