South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Durban, 2nd day March 7, 2009

Australia look to avoid a Melbourne

If Johannesburg began as the mirror image of Perth until a changed ending, the second Test in Durban is starting to resemble the corresponding match in Melbourne


The allrounder Andrew McDonald chipped in with three scalps in the final session © AFP
 

If Johannesburg began as the mirror image of Perth until a changed ending, the second Test in Durban is starting to resemble the corresponding match in Melbourne . At the MCG Australia posted a healthy 394 and were well on top of South Africa's batsmen before a massive partnership from JP Duminy and Dale Steyn rescued the game and set up a historic South Africa victory.

At Kingsmead, Australia closed the second day with a 214-run lead and needing two wickets to knock over South Africa and strengthen their hold. The men at the crease? Duminy and Steyn. Ominously for Australia, Duminy was well set on 73. Worryingly for South Africa, the Durban pitch was proving harder to master than the reverse sweep.

"It's quite up and down," the South Africa spinner Paul Harris said. "It's not easy. Both sides today struggled to score. It has changed a lot since yesterday. It has definitely gotten quicker. Whatever it's doing, it's doing much quicker than the day before.

"Melbourne was a much better batting wicket. It will be tough but this team enjoys a scrap and we're certainly in one now. We're going to have to play really well to get out of this one, probably the best we have played in the away series or the home series in order to get out of this one."

Their major problem will be to tame a wild Mitchell Johnson, who swung the ball outrageously and found enough bounce to send Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis to hospital with nasty blows. Johnson picked up two wickets in the first over and gave the side a massive lift after a disappointing end to their batting innings when they lost their last five wickets for four runs.

"That's going to pick up anybody on any cricket team, when you can pick up two wickets in the first over," the allrounder Andrew McDonald said. "The first over is usually just one or two runs coming off it. But when you put two wickets back in the shed, and then obviously with a couple of blokes retired hurt, it really gave us a great deal of momentum."

McDonald was able to cash in on that momentum to collect three wickets late in the day with his naggingly accurate offerings. In the absence of a specialist spinner, McDonald has played the containing role during the past two Tests and he finished the day with the attractive figures of 3 for 25 from 12 overs, including the vital wicket of Kallis.

"That's my job, to pretty much hold up one end," McDonald said. "That's all I do. If I get the wickets, that's great. I thought I bowled well in Johannesburg, just keeping it tight, and that's the same method I used today. Some days you're going to get the wickets and other days you aren't. Today was just my day to get a couple."

McDonald was not part of the loss at the MCG, his home ground, and he hasn't played in a losing Australian team. He has done his best to ensure that trend continues.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo