South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Cape Town, 2nd day November 10, 2011

South Africa confident after stirring fightback

The contest at Newlands has swung from tense to one-sided to competitive, and now stands on the cusp of an epic finish
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It is not turning into the five-day thriller that these teams are capable of but the first Test between South Africa and Australia is still poised for a close finish. With the two middle innings of the contest playing out in bizarre fashion and their combined totals amounting to less than Michael Clarke's score in one innings, the contest has swung from tense to one-sided to competitive, and now stands on the cusp of an epic finish.

"We have to work our backsides off tomorrow," Michael Clarke, Australia captain said at the end of the second day. "In my mind, if we can bowl well tomorrow morning we have enough runs on the board to win this Test match but I don't hide away from the fact that, that batting performance was not good enough."

Jacques Rudolph, South Africa's comeback kid, had an equal response. "Graeme [Smith] made the point clear to us that we have to come here tomorrow with very good attitudes," he said. "We want to try and put on a good performance. We've chased targets very well against Australia recently."

With 155 runs needed and nine wickets in hand, South Africa appear the favourites, but in a match that has produced batting displays of the standard of a primary school competition, anything is possible. After a decent first innings of 284 from Australia, the next two efforts suggested that the Newlands pitch had turned into a snake-pit, a minefield, or worse. In reality, all that happened was that it had quickened up, according to Rudolph.

South Africa were undone by wicket-to-wicket, length bowling, while Australia succumbed to swing and seam, leaving the cricketing world wondering if the ICC will slap Cape Town's jewel of a stadium with a warning, if not a ban. Clarke quickly absolved the surface of any blame and said the weather had had more of an impact than his team bargained for.

With clouds covering the Cape Town sky, there was more movement on offer than normally seen here. Usually, Newlands' matches are played in sultry summer, January or later, when the heat can bake the pitch into a strip that favours batting. This time though, the pitch eased out only in the fleeting moments when the golden rays peeped out. Clarke hopes that the gloomy grey will persist into the third day.

"Hopefully it is overcast in the morning because you would have seen the difference when the sun was out this afternoon compared to when it was overcast throughout South Africa's first innings," he said.

Clarke acknowledged that the shining sun did not have an effect on everyone and that his team had played a selection of "disgraceful" shots that consigned them to the fourth lowest total in history. "The sun was out when we were batting, so we can't blame the wicket. All we can do is accept the reality of what happened, learn from it and get your head around what we've got tomorrow. We've got a great opportunity to win another Test match tomorrow morning."

South Africa have assessed the situation in exactly the same way. Knowing that disciplined batting will give them a Test victory, they plan to approach the task in a conservative fashion, after their erratic first-innings effort - "a combination of poor shot selection and then being too tentative at times," as Rudolph described it.

Rudolph said "length bowling" would be the difference on this pitch, because anything too short, as Morne Morkel bowled in Australia's first innings, could be punished. He said the outcome of this match, while having a significant effect on the series, would also play a key role in deciding who takes the upper hand into the next Test.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Gizza on November 11, 2011, 8:21 GMT

    @donda, if South Africa wins it won't be a slap in the face for bowlers. Vernon Philander will still be the most likely person to get Man of the Match award. Even if SA chase this they won because of bowling Aus out for 47. If the pitch demons go away (whether real or just psychological) a successful fourth innings chase by South Africa is nothing to crow about and doesn't signal the death of bowling in the game of cricket.

  • The_bowlers_Holding on November 11, 2011, 8:16 GMT

    An amazing test match so far, shot selection has at times been poor. However I do feel a bowler friendly pitch makes for a better test, for too long tests have been batsmen friendly, no wonder so many modern batsmen have averages over 50.

  • on November 11, 2011, 8:04 GMT

    Really the South African bowlers bowled much beeter then the Aussies, It was only the spell from Watson that was fantastic, so I cant see who else could do it for them. All the SA quicks bowled like they could do it!!!!

  • Amol_Gh on November 11, 2011, 7:50 GMT

    What has SA been 'chokers' in a multi-nation ODI tournament really got to do with their strong-always position in the Test arena ? I really wonder... But then I know SA are 'chokers' in those ODI tourneys because they are expected to win those series. ENG are no chokers like SA because the former aren't expected to win anyway. But then again one should always expect the 'unexpected' in the comments' section. SA most probably will win this Test and prove that the one who had demons in it, wasn't the pitch but the batsman's mind.

  • on November 11, 2011, 7:38 GMT

    Donda : Even if South Africa win , isnt it a victory for their bowlers for bowling out Aus for 47 ???

  • Lazybones_2011 on November 11, 2011, 6:51 GMT

    I wonder how many times a team scoring less than 100 in a test match has won it too! also the paradox that two of the top sides in cricket today produce an exciting game playing poor cricket.

  • Ian_SA on November 11, 2011, 5:17 GMT

    This match is neither good nor bad for test cricket. Sure, no-one wants matches which are routinely over in 3 days, but then it is good to have some variety. A few matches that don't go the distance are hardly bad for test cricket, come on! The enjoyment is in the variety. I am a South African supporter and feel confident they should win. However, the trouble with SA (vs Australia) has always been in their attitude, as highlighted by Rudolph's quote "..try and put on a good peformance.." TRY? Gee, what confidence! In the words of Yoda: "Do, or do not. There is no try."

  • landl47 on November 11, 2011, 4:58 GMT

    SA have nothing to be upbeat about. Australia lost 10 wickets for 47. but SA lost 9 for 47 themselves, from 49-1 to 96 all out. Then Amla should have been out at the end of the day, but Hussey grassed a simple catch. I guess SA will feel that at least they are still in it, when even a club side would have made enough to give them a really stiff task in the 4th innings, but a couple of quick wickets tomorrow and Aus could easily take this. This isn't a contest about who can win, it's about who will lose.

  • on November 11, 2011, 4:12 GMT

    go sa make it 1-0 and grab the all important momentum before the wanderers test

  • Fast_Track_Bully on November 11, 2011, 4:09 GMT

    one team all out in 25 overs and another one in 18 overs! this is gonna kill the test cricket...If everything will end in 2 days, what will viewers do? Ticket for a test cricket will be worthless!

  • Gizza on November 11, 2011, 8:21 GMT

    @donda, if South Africa wins it won't be a slap in the face for bowlers. Vernon Philander will still be the most likely person to get Man of the Match award. Even if SA chase this they won because of bowling Aus out for 47. If the pitch demons go away (whether real or just psychological) a successful fourth innings chase by South Africa is nothing to crow about and doesn't signal the death of bowling in the game of cricket.

  • The_bowlers_Holding on November 11, 2011, 8:16 GMT

    An amazing test match so far, shot selection has at times been poor. However I do feel a bowler friendly pitch makes for a better test, for too long tests have been batsmen friendly, no wonder so many modern batsmen have averages over 50.

  • on November 11, 2011, 8:04 GMT

    Really the South African bowlers bowled much beeter then the Aussies, It was only the spell from Watson that was fantastic, so I cant see who else could do it for them. All the SA quicks bowled like they could do it!!!!

  • Amol_Gh on November 11, 2011, 7:50 GMT

    What has SA been 'chokers' in a multi-nation ODI tournament really got to do with their strong-always position in the Test arena ? I really wonder... But then I know SA are 'chokers' in those ODI tourneys because they are expected to win those series. ENG are no chokers like SA because the former aren't expected to win anyway. But then again one should always expect the 'unexpected' in the comments' section. SA most probably will win this Test and prove that the one who had demons in it, wasn't the pitch but the batsman's mind.

  • on November 11, 2011, 7:38 GMT

    Donda : Even if South Africa win , isnt it a victory for their bowlers for bowling out Aus for 47 ???

  • Lazybones_2011 on November 11, 2011, 6:51 GMT

    I wonder how many times a team scoring less than 100 in a test match has won it too! also the paradox that two of the top sides in cricket today produce an exciting game playing poor cricket.

  • Ian_SA on November 11, 2011, 5:17 GMT

    This match is neither good nor bad for test cricket. Sure, no-one wants matches which are routinely over in 3 days, but then it is good to have some variety. A few matches that don't go the distance are hardly bad for test cricket, come on! The enjoyment is in the variety. I am a South African supporter and feel confident they should win. However, the trouble with SA (vs Australia) has always been in their attitude, as highlighted by Rudolph's quote "..try and put on a good peformance.." TRY? Gee, what confidence! In the words of Yoda: "Do, or do not. There is no try."

  • landl47 on November 11, 2011, 4:58 GMT

    SA have nothing to be upbeat about. Australia lost 10 wickets for 47. but SA lost 9 for 47 themselves, from 49-1 to 96 all out. Then Amla should have been out at the end of the day, but Hussey grassed a simple catch. I guess SA will feel that at least they are still in it, when even a club side would have made enough to give them a really stiff task in the 4th innings, but a couple of quick wickets tomorrow and Aus could easily take this. This isn't a contest about who can win, it's about who will lose.

  • on November 11, 2011, 4:12 GMT

    go sa make it 1-0 and grab the all important momentum before the wanderers test

  • Fast_Track_Bully on November 11, 2011, 4:09 GMT

    one team all out in 25 overs and another one in 18 overs! this is gonna kill the test cricket...If everything will end in 2 days, what will viewers do? Ticket for a test cricket will be worthless!

  • zzzombie on November 11, 2011, 3:24 GMT

    @5wombats: No more exports for you folks!!

  • harshthakor on November 11, 2011, 2:49 GMT

    It is such wickets that despite flaws make test Cricket the true game.At stages the batsman flourish,but just moments later they literally flounder.

  • harshthakor on November 11, 2011, 2:45 GMT

    One of the greatest days in the history of test Cricket ,with one of the most dramatic turnabouts witnessed in the Sport.A victory for test Cricket.The crucial factor is the change in the pitch at different times.In the middle period ,yesterday,it was treacherous.I will back South Africa to win but if events repeat itself we may again see a turnabout.The match will then become like a Hollywood thriller with an enthralling climax.

  • Wasim_Wasamadroota on November 11, 2011, 1:47 GMT

    Went to bed after SA innings with a grin from ear to ear, got up in morning and saw score 1/81 and initially thought Aussies going ok, had to do a double take when I realized it was SA and saw Aussie score - amazing. Can't help but shake my head and laugh at such a topsy turvy day of cricket, anyway I agree it is better than flat track 100's and boring draws. I think SA will cruise home.

  • bumsonseats on November 11, 2011, 0:18 GMT

    yes i still think the aussie have a chance. 60 - 40 for the saffers though. dpk

  • NRI- on November 11, 2011, 0:16 GMT

    Okay, stop blaming Indian batsmen. Anytime bowlers appear that seam and move the ball at 140+, batsmen everywhere fail. England didn't fail because India did not have a single bowler who could even bowl at 140, let alone seam and move it in the air at 140. For everyone who has been saying bowling standards have fallen, it looks like test batting standards, which require patience and temperance, have fallen because of ODIs and 20-20s albeit strike rates and inventive strokes have risen.

  • mahjut on November 10, 2011, 23:55 GMT

    SlashN - i sympathise with your sentiments ...Clarke's first innings was great BUT the saffers bowling in the second was great too (aided by deer-in-the-headlights batting but by all accounts they got the ball talking more than a little and more than the aussie attack) ... and Smith has done a pretty good job so far in settling his team for the evening and the chase tomorrow. Apart from that - it's been exciting but yes, i'd not like to see this level of incompetency too often

  • 5wombats on November 10, 2011, 23:37 GMT

    @SlashN - the wombats COMPLETELY AGREE with you. Magic from Clarke, but look, this is not how Test cricket is supposed to be. In the Summer india were also a disgrace to Test cricket - they were hopelessly weak. It's not the pitch or the conditions - it's the temperament and attitude. In Australia in The Ashes (except for Hussey) Aus also lacked the application and attitude required. And South Africa - all out for 96 to a pretty average Aus bowling unit did not exactly cover themselves in glory. india - hopeless, Sri Lanka - weak, Australia - mentally weak, South Africa - fragile, to put it mildly. This is not good for Test cricket. England are going to be number one for a few years.

  • RandyOZ on November 10, 2011, 22:30 GMT

    Hoping for an SA choke. Hussey's drop could prove crucial.

  • on November 10, 2011, 21:49 GMT

    Is it a Movie or a Test Match? The last batsman was the highest scorer in the 2nd innings. The last wicket put on 26 in a Total of 47.Who said that Test cricket was boring? Those who got up in the morning today had a TERRIBLE SHOCK.

  • donda on November 10, 2011, 21:38 GMT

    Come on this match should be won by bowlers, please give a match to bowlers. Australia should win to show the world that bowlers can win test matches too today. If SA wins, this will be slap on the face of every bowler in cricket today.

    Bowlers come on, win this match and show bowling dominance for once in 15 years.

  • 5wombats on November 10, 2011, 20:33 GMT

    The wombats' money is on Australia.

  • on November 10, 2011, 20:25 GMT

    SA are known chokers, but in this case I'll definitely go with SA. Should they continue to play the way they played today they will win the test match.

    Aussies dropping simple catch on the last ball of the day will turn out to be very expensive.

  • on November 10, 2011, 20:25 GMT

    After only 134.3 overs, the fourth innings of the match is already initiated!!!! we are looking at the prospect of the match to be decided.............. with full days play: the number of overs would comprise of only four and a half sessions only!!! What a test match!!!

  • CricketFan2011WC on November 10, 2011, 19:35 GMT

    Clarke, shouldn't you have said the same thing during the Galle-test in SL?

  • on November 10, 2011, 19:27 GMT

    I have never seen anything like today's test from Newlands.The bowling was incredible. Anyone watching is in for a treat tomorrow. Enjoy the fun.

  • on November 10, 2011, 19:10 GMT

    I would certainly prefer this kind of pitches for test match cricket....i strongly believe that a bowler friendly pitch only makes test cricket more interesting for spectators...who wants to see 5 days flat pitches ..boring draws and worthless tons!!

  • SlashN on November 10, 2011, 19:07 GMT

    pray tell me how is 2 teams displaying shambolic batting to not get through beyond the 3rd day great for test cricket, if its just a contest to the bottom you'd like to watch, why not your local club game. The cricket in this match has been nowhere near top quality apart from the masterclass from Clarke.

  • on November 10, 2011, 19:02 GMT

    I've been wondering what insight these 2 Tests might give into the relative status of SA, Australia and England - but after the last 2 days I don't know how anything can be learned!

  • _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on November 10, 2011, 18:56 GMT

    Bottom line is majority of modern batsmen turn into novices when the ball moves. Let's have more respect for past greats who often batted in similar conditions. That being said, yet another epic match between these 2 teams.

  • phoenixsteve on November 10, 2011, 18:52 GMT

    Should be an interesting day! Can SA overcome their 'chokers' title and push on to win this one? Tough call, but I'd be putting my wager on the Aussies.... time will tell, may the best team win! Great for test cricket though.....

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  • phoenixsteve on November 10, 2011, 18:52 GMT

    Should be an interesting day! Can SA overcome their 'chokers' title and push on to win this one? Tough call, but I'd be putting my wager on the Aussies.... time will tell, may the best team win! Great for test cricket though.....

  • _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on November 10, 2011, 18:56 GMT

    Bottom line is majority of modern batsmen turn into novices when the ball moves. Let's have more respect for past greats who often batted in similar conditions. That being said, yet another epic match between these 2 teams.

  • on November 10, 2011, 19:02 GMT

    I've been wondering what insight these 2 Tests might give into the relative status of SA, Australia and England - but after the last 2 days I don't know how anything can be learned!

  • SlashN on November 10, 2011, 19:07 GMT

    pray tell me how is 2 teams displaying shambolic batting to not get through beyond the 3rd day great for test cricket, if its just a contest to the bottom you'd like to watch, why not your local club game. The cricket in this match has been nowhere near top quality apart from the masterclass from Clarke.

  • on November 10, 2011, 19:10 GMT

    I would certainly prefer this kind of pitches for test match cricket....i strongly believe that a bowler friendly pitch only makes test cricket more interesting for spectators...who wants to see 5 days flat pitches ..boring draws and worthless tons!!

  • on November 10, 2011, 19:27 GMT

    I have never seen anything like today's test from Newlands.The bowling was incredible. Anyone watching is in for a treat tomorrow. Enjoy the fun.

  • CricketFan2011WC on November 10, 2011, 19:35 GMT

    Clarke, shouldn't you have said the same thing during the Galle-test in SL?

  • on November 10, 2011, 20:25 GMT

    After only 134.3 overs, the fourth innings of the match is already initiated!!!! we are looking at the prospect of the match to be decided.............. with full days play: the number of overs would comprise of only four and a half sessions only!!! What a test match!!!

  • on November 10, 2011, 20:25 GMT

    SA are known chokers, but in this case I'll definitely go with SA. Should they continue to play the way they played today they will win the test match.

    Aussies dropping simple catch on the last ball of the day will turn out to be very expensive.

  • 5wombats on November 10, 2011, 20:33 GMT

    The wombats' money is on Australia.