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February 21, 2014
Australia's coach Darren Lehmann narrowed his focus on the touring side's top order after a poor start to another first innings at St George's Park allowed South Africa to roar back into a series that had looked beyond their grasp following a hiding in the first Test in Centurion.
On a far more docile pitch than the one on which Mitchell Johnson made merry, South Africa's batsmen set themselves the task of keeping Australia in the field for five sessions, and were rewarded by a start of some inattention from the touring batsmen, despite the friendliness of the surface. Lehmann was frank in his disappointment about a 25-over passage that followed the script of too many first innings during his tenure, leaving the hosts very much on top.
"We'd love more first-innings runs, I've spoken to everyone in the [press] room about that at various stages. That's what we need to do to get better as a cricket side," Lehmann said. "That's probably the issue we've had in Test matches and got out of trouble with someone like Brad Haddin in a couple and obviously Shaun Marsh and Steven Smith in the last Test match. We've got to get better from our top order, we know that.
"It could have been worse if they took a couple of chances. They bowled very well, give them some credit there. I think the wicket is still very good and we probably helped with a couple of dismissals. We've got to be better in those tough situations. I know it was a long day in the field with 150-odd overs. We've got to be better at restricting the wicket column.
"I'm pleased we got 112 runs, and certainly the game is going forward when we're batting, but disappointed with the wicket loss. We've got to bat really well tomorrow and keep them out in the field for most of the day. It's a good opportunity, it's a good wicket, so someone's got to stand up and make some runs."
While happy with the efforts of the bowlers to keep South Africa's scoring rate below three per over throughout, Lehmann acknowledged the importance of a genuine fifth bowling option to his plans for such pitches, and indicated strongly that Shane Watson would be brought back in time for the Cape Town Test. It is not yet clear at whose expense that may be, but slim scores for Chris Rogers, Alex Doolan and Shaun Marsh gave Lehmann room for change.
"We love five bowlers as we've always said," Lehmann said. "The hardest thing is fitting that in after a great Test win and he hadn't bowled before this Test match. We've just got to see that he's getting along. He bowled today, so hopefully he's fit and firing, and ready to go. Hopefully we don't have to bowl 150 overs in Cape Town and I'm pretty sure the wicket won't have as less bounce as this one."
Despite the parlous position of his team, Lehmann pointed out they had plenty of experience in similar circumstances recently due to the top order's shortcomings, and expected the likes of David Warner, Smith and Haddin to conjure another rescue on day three.
"From our point of view we've been in this situation too often, so we know what we need to do tomorrow," Lehmann said. "The morning's going to be a very big session for us, as it is for South Africa. They're ahead of the game now and we've just got to get back into it."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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