January 8, 2009

South Africa in Australia 2008-09

Dream series ends on highest possible note

Roll over Allan Stanford and all the other unbelievers with a concentration span of 10 minutes. An exhilarating Test match ended in its last few moments in the most stunning circumstances as a battered but unbowed visiting captain was beaten by a scything delivery from an exhausted opponent, writes Peter Roebuck in the Witness.

It was an extraordinary finish. Storm clouds were gathering over a scarred ground. An increasingly alarmed Australian side was desperately trying to take the last two wickets thereby securing a much-needed victory. South African tailenders were hanging on for dear life.

Meanwhile all and sundry were watching the rooms wondering whether or not a wounded captain intended to bat. Rumours spread that he had been sighted in white clothes and then swinging a bat but, like the existence of the Loch Ness monster, they remained unconfirmed. Someone said that his plastercast had been cut off and he was trying to put on his batting gloves. Not until the last instant did anyone outside the rooms realise that Smith meant to take his turn at the crease.

Graeme Smith and Micky Arthur have repeatedly insisted that one of their guiding principles is that each player knows what his role is. What that means, in part, is that all the top batsmen play in a certain position that has its own unique responsibilities, writes Patrick Compton on Independent Online.

With Smith injured, what were the management to do? Playing specialist batsmen like Amla or Duminy up front would have disrupted the batting order and changed the team's batting rhythm, so the non-specialist Morkel, who has shown some ability against pace, was seen as the best remaining option. The gamble failed, as it turned out, but the decision was the correct one.

Only today can we appreciate the scale of the risk, and the epic quality of the reward, selectors contemplated when Graeme Smith was appointed captain, aged just 22, back in early 2003. Last year he led his team to a series victory in England, and now this. He’s Steve Waugh without the nastiness. He’s Australian, without the chippiness, writes Alex Parker in the Times.

The Times also has a photo feature on Smith, going back to his schoolboy days.

On Independent Online, Zaahier Adams looks ahead to the one-day series.

While the withdrawal of skipper Graeme Smith due to injury is always a negative, I think there could be a silver lining to that dark cloud. Neil McKenzie has been called up, but I am more excited by the prospect of a Hashim Amla-Herschelle Gibbs opening combination

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Mathew Varghese is sub-editor (stats) at Cricinfo

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