February 22, 2002

Gloomy day for South Africa as Hayden shines at the Wanderers

An unhappy day for South African cricket ended in shameful fashion with three spectators arrested for spitting and throwing beer at Australian batsmen, two of the home team's most senior players off the field with injuries and the tourists nicely placed at 331 for five in their first innings at stumps on the first day of the first Castle Lager/MTN Test match at the Wanderers.

Already up against it even before the match with captain Shaun Pollock and Justin Ontong ruled out of the game with injuries, South Africa's resources were further depleted when Gary Kirsten had to be helped off the field after being struck near the right eye by a powerful Mark Waugh pull while fielding at short leg while champion fast bowler Allan Donald went down in a heap with a hamstring strain towards the end of the day.

Of the two, Donald seems to be the more serious. Kirsten has a small cut under the eye and an impressive shiner, but if the swelling around his leading eye subsides, he should be able to bat. There are fears, though, that Donald may have made his last appearance in the series and even, given his advancing years, Test cricket altogether.

A gloomy position for the home team became even more depressing after stumps with the announcement that three spectators had been charged with crimen injuria, one for spitting at Australian captain Steve Waugh as he left the field after making 32 and the other two for throwing beer at Damien Martyn and Adam Gilchrist as they left the field at stumps. The charges have been laid by the Australian team management.

The disgust felt by the Australians at this treatment will have been eased a little by their position. With South Africa now a bowler down a total beyond 500 is entirely possible on the second day and with the pitch already deteriorating according to centurion Matthew Hayden South Africa will not relish the prospect of batting last against Shane Warne.

Hayden was the day's outstanding figure, taking advantage of a life before he had scored to score 122, his fourth century in as many Tests against the South Africans. He was dropped by Jacques Kallis at second slip off Makhaya Ntini in the second over of the day and made South Africa pay dearly for this lapse. "I thought I was blessed," said Hayden, a deeply religious man, afterwards.

Blessed or not, the secular side of his innings consisted of a succession of powerfully struck shots. Two off drives off Andre Nel in the afternoon could not have been bettered by any left-hander in any age while his pair of sixes of Nicky Boje were picked up with disdainful ease.

The Australians will probably feel that more of their batsmen should have build on solid starts. Justin Langer's 28 was the lowest score of the dismissed batsmen, but only Hayden and Mark Waugh (53) went beyond 50. Both fell to catches down the leg side while Ricky Ponting was unfortunate to be given out caught at the wicket when he seemed to miss the ball altogether and Steve Waugh was brilliantly caught at backward point by Herschelle Gibbs off a full-blooded cut off Kallis.

In truth the South African bowling and approach was very ordinary on a day when they might have hoped to break free of the shackles imposed on them by Australia in Australia. Before his injury Donald was disappoint, Kallis largely ineffective and only Ntini really approached anything like his potential.

They were led, it must be said, by a stand-in captain in the absence of Pollock and it would probably be unfair to be too critical of Mark Boucher's captaincy on his first day in the job. What was disappointing, though, was the apparent lack of planning by the home team and the sense that rather than having a clear idea of what they hoped to achieve, they were able only to react to Australia's initiatives.

If this is the case, it could be a very long series for the South Africans.