South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 4th day March 4, 2014

We still have hope - Domingo


It was only 16 months ago but Russell Domingo seemed a lot younger in November 2012. His voice had a little more song in it and he smiled a bit more when he was put up to address the media on the fourth day of the second Test between South Africa and Australia.

Then, South Africa were 77 for 4 after being set a target of 430 and Domingo admitted they were down and out. "We know that 350 on the last day with four wickets down is probably out of the window," he said then. He was right but he also wasn't expecting South Africa to bat out 98 overs like they did.

That they did is why today, despite tired eyes, with a tone that was less melodious and more of a frown, Domingo brought a message that was like a dark cloud. It had a silver lining. "I think there is still hope," he said. "We're hoping AB can score the slowest 40 in the history of the game. We've got Faf who has done it before. And JP is off the back of a 100. There's still hope."

It's probably a slimmer hope now than it was then because back in November 2012, Australia were a bowler down after James Pattinson had suffered a side strain. Now, he is fit and they are only half a bowler short because Ryan Harris may need to protect his knee. Then, the track was flat and there was no reverse swing. Now, it's a little up and down and the movement is there to be exploited. But then, South Africa did not know whether they could bat out a day. Now, they do.

"We've managed to get ourselves out of holes like this before," Domingo said. Twice, they have done it before. South Africa drew both in Adelaide and at the Wanderers against India. They have proved bowling them out is not always that easy and with enough resolve, they can put up a stubborn resistance.

What could end up being the major difference is that then, South Africa were not facing a future without their leader. Now they are. It may also be why Domingo looks like he has aged more than he would have liked. "It's an emotional space," he said of the South African change-room now, given Graeme Smith's imminent retirement. "Everybody in that team started their career with Graeme as the captain."

Smith told his team-mates and Domingo the news after the third day's play. It came unexpectedly but firmly. "When a player of that decision makes like that, he doesn't do it overnight. He would have thought about it. You cant change a person's mind once he has made his decision," Domingo said. "I might have heard a rumour that it was due to happen soon but I didn't ask about it."

Whether there is more to Smith's timing than meets the eye may only be uncovered in a few days' time. For now, Domingo and Smith have to concentrate on salvaging the series. Domingo can't look too far ahead but thinks he has the players who can make up for Smith's absence and step up when needed.

"When guys like Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock retired, people thought who is going to come next and up popped Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander," he said. "We've always got some depth and some good players. It's time for Hashim Amla, Dale, Morne, Vernon and AB de Villiers to become icon players. They learnt their trade under the Smiths and Kallis and now they need to impart knowledge."

The only batsman from that list who can still do that in this match is de Villiers, who incidentally was also batting overnight in Adelaide. He has the nightwatchman at one end and du Plessis still to come. With those resources in the bank, Domingo sees the current situation as 70-30 in Australia's favour.

If South Africa can bat to lunch with only another wicket lost, he thinks that will shift the balance to 60-40. If they get to tea and still have five men in the hut, that equation, according to Domingo, will become 50-50. It's a number's game for Domingo who admitted, somewhat wearily, they can only hope to save the match and and not break new ground.

"We'll always want to win but we'll take a draw right now and run very quickly," he said. "I wouldn't have taken a draw at the start of the series because it was an opportunity to make history."

Having never won a series against Australia at home since readmission, now it is just an opportunity for South Africa not to repeat history.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Patrick on March 5, 2014, 20:54 GMT

    Who needs hope when you have Ryan Harris!

  • David on March 5, 2014, 19:24 GMT

    @ Chris Dezso informs us that "Don't worry. South Africa's drop off won't be from similarly dizzying heights. Just from good to not that good."

    That is excellent news, Chris. Good to not that good is far better than good to really really awful. I feel better already.

  • David on March 5, 2014, 17:25 GMT

    @ AN77 asks ".Speaking of short attention span, where is the mention of us whitewashing India at home, England at home and what we've down to SAF here? Your memory seems to have stopped functioning after July 2013."

    My attention span goes back to the fist test series I watched, as a kid in 1970 when SA whitewashed AUS 4-0, ya know, the series where Ian Chappel averaged 15 with the bat? Every moment of that series held my attention, and I have followed test cricket ever since. Heck, SA were undefeated for 21 years!

  • ESPN on March 5, 2014, 10:57 GMT

    Greatest G. Yes Australia fell a long way from the perch of greatest team the world has ever seen. Who would have known that the glory years wouldn't be eternal?

    Don't worry. South Africa's drop off won't be from similarly dizzying heights. Just from good to not that good.

  • ESPN on March 5, 2014, 10:41 GMT

    Yes ab and duplessis can play whole day of test they can do it in past vs india

  • Logan on March 5, 2014, 8:20 GMT

    I think to cope with the reverse swing and the austrailian bowlers have got it going since late yesterday , it can be expected that SA wil be bowled out probably by midday.There will also be lots of chin music and you do not want that on a day 5 pitch.

  • rob on March 5, 2014, 8:05 GMT

    @ Greatest_Game: Yes, we slid a long way down and things were bleak. No 5 and in danger of slipping further. That was 6 months ago. Today, we stand a solid chance of knocking India off the #2 spot and have your possy in our cross-hairs. .. That's what excites most of us Aussies. The turnaround from heaven. .. Please forgive us if we get a little ahead of ourselves at times but this this has been amazing to watch. PS. Loved the line about us not even being able to do our homework! Very funny. PSS, How are those ice storms going?

  • rob on March 5, 2014, 7:50 GMT

    @ mondotv: Lyon has been bowling rtw for so long now I think he's forgotten how to bowl over the wicket. We need him to perform. Now.

  • Alistair on March 5, 2014, 7:31 GMT

    AN77 - since when has victiry been easy between SA and Aus - never! either team has either had to dig down deep, but not once has it been easy. AB and Faf are not going to bend over and just give in - you have another thing coming.

    This game is far from an easy win for Aus, also keep in mind, that a draw in this test series is exactly that - a draw, which is no better than a win or a lose - even if you are playing excellent cricket - we all know that cricket is about stats, so is Aus want to come out on top for this series you have to win, not draw. and I think that is a big challenge as well as SA having to bat on this pitch facing the aussie bowlers.

    Sure Smith and King Kallis is gone, but we have good reserves who will take their place and I don think we will move far from the number 1 spot for too long.

    Wapuser - we will hold onto the#1 spot after this and if or when we lose it - we will be back very soon. Go Proteas!!

  • Dummy on March 5, 2014, 6:22 GMT

    Aussies have certainly played gud aggressive cricket since the ashes but dat doesnt necessarily mean d saffers are not worthy #1...they wud face a big slip up now during dis period of transition but being a die hard proteas fan i hope they'll bounce back sooner than later

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