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

We still have hope - Domingo

Firdose Moonda in Cape Town

March 4, 2014

Comments: 36 | Text size: A | A

AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis put on 205 for the fifth wicket, South Africa v India, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 5th day, December 22, 2013
Russell Domingo will need another stellar display from AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis if South Africa are to salvage anything from the Test © Getty Images
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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

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Posted by pat_one_back on (March 5, 2014, 20:54 GMT)

Who needs hope when you have Ryan Harris!

Posted by Greatest_Game 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.

Posted by Greatest_Game 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!

Posted by   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.

Posted by   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

Posted by Pavinasen 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.

Posted by dunger.bob 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?

Posted by dunger.bob 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.

Posted by Ally323 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!!

Posted by wapuser 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

Posted by Protears on (March 5, 2014, 6:18 GMT)

Nothing worse than a gloating Australian, have some humility before you end up with humble pie. For years your team and the "talents" have been losing badly to the extent that none of the talents are on show in this Australian side mostly consisting of aging veterans in really good form. Clarke, Haddin, Watson, Johnson, Harris, Rogers are not long term investments. put in context all older than Steyn, Morkel, Amla, De Villiers, Faf Du Plessis.

Posted by AN77 on (March 5, 2014, 5:43 GMT)

Looking forward to today. A fantastic Test for the number one side in the world. This is exactly the challenge you want them to face, to see what they're made of. Apart from the scoreline, I can't see too many similarities to Adelaide. Back then we only had Hilfenhaus and Siddle as the pace bowlers - neither bowl at frightening speeds and neither are strike bowlers. If Australia could field their best attack every match they would not play again. This time we have 4 pace bowlers, 3 of them bowl 140k+ and can reverse. The pitch is not the same either. Surviving today is an infinitely more difficult task.

Posted by AN77 on (March 5, 2014, 5:26 GMT)

@ Greatest_Game....settle down. You're about to embark on the wonderful journey that we've been through. Enjoy.

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.

Posted by AN77 on (March 5, 2014, 5:23 GMT)

@Batmanian....are you serious? Is this the first series you have ever watched? How many teams score 440 in a day? RSA can't win. They can only draw.

Australia will want to win in England again like they used to out of habit. No one cares about India. Their pitches are an anomaly in Test cricket. You don't call Pete Sampras an average tennis player because he didn't win the French open. The tour is a write off in every team's calendar because you can't practice for it. India is no measure of a team's ability, especially when they can't win a single Test match away from home.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (March 5, 2014, 5:04 GMT)

@ Chris Dezso informs us "Smith and Kallis gone. Philander exposed as the absolute pretender that he is. Oh how the mighty have fallen."

They have not fallen nearly as far, or as hard, as Australia has. Whitewashed in India, blanked in England, blanked at home by SA … Aus were worse than pathetic, they could not even do their homework.

SA have a long long way to go to plumb the depths Aus did. Wipe that grin off your face and reflect on how bad Aus have been. Heck - Aus lost their last match by over 200 runs. Have you forgotten already? Short attention span, huh?

Posted by Ally323 on (March 5, 2014, 5:00 GMT)

Batmanian - i like your comments - AB at the crease, Duminy and Faf both to come still, so hope? I think the coach has every right to be hopeful, not a drop, but at least 1/4 of a glass full with those 3 batsmen to come, if the wickets dont fall - Aus will lose their grip in this game.

Australia have outplayed SA in this Newlands test. The Centurion and PE tests both teams outdid each other and showed what they were capable of - Aus showed that they could keep their nerve in the newlands test, well done.

Even if Aus beat SA 3 - 0, SA would still be No 1. So saying that they are the best does not mean they are are. I would say they were better than SA in this test. put both teams, Aus and SA in India i doubt Aus would come out tops.

SA were not only without Steyn, but also without a front line spinner, Graeme Smith only has part timers really - thats a double knock to the bowling, and unfortunately, it cannot be afforded against Aus.

Posted by BradmanBestEver on (March 5, 2014, 3:08 GMT)

Regardless of the result Australia have played better over the course of the series.

The important victory has already been one - that is, that Australia is now a test cricket force to be reckoned with - right now it is the best team going around by a long way.

Posted by   on (March 5, 2014, 2:30 GMT)

domingo I will tell u, this time for australia. as a coach u should keep hope i,e, good. I am really sad because of unhappy sendoff to great smith. I feel bad.

Posted by   on (March 5, 2014, 2:19 GMT)

As Chris_P pointed out, in Adelaide Wade was terrible and I believe the majority of chances he missed were of Faf du Plesis. Faf is not going to get as many lives as he did in Adelaide to stay with AB to help the Sth Africans bat time out. Faf used all his luck in the first innings. Out caught behind first ball, but not reviewed and then dropped on 3 other occasions. Yep he has used his luck so he won't get the luck he had in Adelaide in 2012, and without luck he is not good enough to combat the Australian bowling attack.

Posted by mondotv on (March 5, 2014, 1:36 GMT)

I think its too many overs to just defend. I notice the wicket yesterday was just starting to stay low occasionally and the Aussie attack will bowl straight and be prepared to be worked through the leg side as runs aren't really a concern.

If Lyon could actually bowl well over the wicket and into the rough outside the right handers off stump it may end faster. I'm not sure I understand why he's bowling around the wicket to the right handers. It seems he only knows one way and that's way too limited for a Test off spinner.

Posted by   on (March 5, 2014, 1:30 GMT)

SA still have hope of scraping a drawn series on home soil. Smith and Kallis gone. Philander exposed as the absolute pretender that he is. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Posted by CoolBarn on (March 5, 2014, 0:46 GMT)

So Domingo sees the current situation as 70-30 hey? If somebody sees a drop of water in a glass and claims it is half-full, are they being an optimist or simply in denial???

Positive thinking is one thing, but a coach has to be realistic as well. Without Steyn Australia has just been too good this test match, and for much of the series to be honest.

Posted by Batmanian on (March 5, 2014, 0:24 GMT)

Australia are the best team in the world, but in a weak field. Until they put in a competitive show in India and win in England, it won't feel like number one. If Australia can show they are better, on balance, home and away against India, it will feel like they're back on the boards, at least in terms of the real reference points of the old Australian dynasty, and the Windies before that.

Posted by Batmanian on (March 5, 2014, 0:17 GMT)

If it's five for at tea, RSA have won. Australia needs two in the first session and one in the second, and it should be OK. Very exciting lopsided scenario this - a tribute to the respect AB, Faf and Duminy have earnt against Aus.

Posted by dunger.bob on (March 5, 2014, 0:16 GMT)

We're in for a tense final day that's for sure. I'm not a big fan of stone walling but what other choice have they got? .. I'd say the chances of them going for the win is just about zero but that's understandable. There's just too many runs to get on a last day pitch. .. For me, it's time for Lyon to really stand up. He's done a steady job so far but now is the time for him to really earn his pay. We need two or more wickets from you Nathan!

Posted by   on (March 4, 2014, 21:40 GMT)

Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Lyon, back then. Harris, Johnson, Patto, Watto and Lyon now, plus Smith with his partnership breakers. Also no Kallis to stand there on one leg! It's not quite the same match up, is it? A remarkable match that one but the Aussie bowling has improved quite markedly since.

Posted by Mervo on (March 4, 2014, 21:20 GMT)

Whether SA manage to hold out or not, one thing is clear. Australia do indeed have the better bowling attack and it seems the better batting. More centuries, amazing bowling data on Johnson and more creative captaincy. SA's days at the top are now few. They need a spin bowler, Philander has been toothless on his own wickets and they have lost two of their best ever batsmen. Australia deserves to win this series as they have played the better cricket. Its really that simple.

Posted by Chris_P on (March 4, 2014, 21:14 GMT)

@creebo777. I doubt many Aussie supporters will agree. To be #1 shows a sustained level of high standards over a period of time, we are still starting our journey with that. South Africa has clearly been the best team for the past 4 to 5 years & deserve their status, although we are on the rise.

Posted by   on (March 4, 2014, 21:14 GMT)

The only way SA can save this test and series is if the last two bats hold out. As for you Domino's Domingo Pizza, your coaching credentials exceed you. What exactly are you teaching someone like ABD who has skills beyond you comprehension? I am sorry Dommy but your not cut out for the job, Kirsten was run out of the job, based on .........we all know what///////////

Posted by MikeNQN on (March 4, 2014, 21:10 GMT)

South Africa may secure a draw, but they don't deserve it. It's like they have been playing for a draw since ball 1. Australia has made all the play, declared twice scored at roughly 5 an over in the second innings to set up the game even with SA bowling 2 feet outside off stump, had an innings cut short by rain etc. But yes, AB and Faf might save them but to what end, to become famous for stone-walling, for saving games rather than winning them for hiding deficiencies. I actually thought for a long time that Kallis was their problem with negativity (no world cup wins) but the negativity seems to be ingrained. They only need 4.3 runs an over to win but I don't think this thought has even entered their minds.

Posted by   on (March 4, 2014, 19:53 GMT)

Come on SA! I hope ABD and Faf show the same kind of resistance they did at Adelaide... I'm pretty sure AB is up for it because he is comfortable against Johnson, but I don't know whether Faf is... As Domingo said, if they can go through 2 sessions with just 1 or 2 wickets down, they will have a great chance...

Posted by Digimont on (March 4, 2014, 19:45 GMT)

Yes, BUT South Africa has to WIN this time...for Smith, to break the at home hoodoo against Australia, to stop Australia rising to #2 in the test rankings, to underline they really are #1. A drawn series is a FAIL.

Posted by creebo777 on (March 4, 2014, 19:41 GMT)

Australia deserves to win,number 1 been totaly outplayed,aussies seem like a better team,new coach,new selectors for proteas

Posted by Beertjie on (March 4, 2014, 19:38 GMT)

Even if they bat to lunch with only 5 down a new ball will be available shortly thereafter. Negotiating THAT will be more important than any other of the permutations. By then the pitch will start playing more tricks, so I expect it will be all over by tea at the very latest. Bad luck , Russ!

Posted by Chris_P on (March 4, 2014, 19:34 GMT)

True, a lot of these factors weren't about back then, also with Watson's back up as well but the biggest one he missed is that Wade isn't keeping! He did miss a couple of chances that would have tied up the win with a very, very ordinary display behind the stumps.

Posted by StarveTheLizard on (March 4, 2014, 18:38 GMT)

If any batting lineup could save this match, then that would be the current one. If de Villiers falls, however, then its game over.

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