Cruel blow for Kirsten as South Africa share day one with Australia at Kingsmead
South African opener Gary Kirsten will have left Kingsmead in a foul mood on Friday evening after losing his wicket one ball before play was called off for bad light at the end of the first day's play in the third and final Castle Lager/MTN Test match against Australia.
Kirsten was caught off a glove down the leg side as he faced Brett Lee's 140km/h plus thunderbolts in uncertain light. He went at 48 for one as play ran nearly an hour overtime and just one ball later, after South Africa had sent Paul Adams in as nightwatchman, umpires Dave Orchard and Srinivas Venkataraghavan, both members of the ICC's elite umpires panel, called the players off the field.
It was a poor decision to have kept the players on as the sun dropped behind Durban's Berea and before the floodlights had taken full effect. The South Africans will not have been amused, particular after Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs had made a solid start to their reply to Australia's 315 all out.
The loss of Kirsten aside, South African will have been relatively well pleased with their position after asking Australia to bat. Opinion at Kingsmead on Mark Boucher's decision was divided, but many thought he had chosen to field first in order to keep his batsmen away from Australia's bowlers.
As it turned out, there were few devils in the Kingsmead pitch and more than one Australian batsman had only himself to blame for his dismisssal. There was an early breathrough for South Africa as David Terbrugge struck with the first ball of his comback Test match to remove Justin Langer at 11 for one and for once Matthew Hayden went relatively cheaply, caught at slip off Jacques Kallis for 28.
But Ricky Ponting, who finished off the Newlands Test on Tuesday by hitting a six to reach his hundred, was in awesome form, middling the ball from the word go. He looked quite capable of doubling his Newlands effort as he and Mark Waugh added 108 for thje third wicket and then South Africa had one of those moments that sometimes change the directions of Test matches.
Waugh pushed to cover and called for a single, Ponting went and Gibbs threw down the wicket at the striker's end to catch Ponting short on 89. It was an unnecessary risk and Australia were quickly made to pay for it. Waugh was caught at slip off Kallis nine runs later and then Paul Adams had Steve Waugh caught at slip for just 7, the third time in as many innings that the Australian captain has got out cheaply to the left-arm spinner.
Australia had slipped from 169 for two to 182 for five and South Africa were in the game. But, of course, Adam Gilchrist had still to bat.
The left-hander lost Damien Martyn for 11, had some support from Shane Warne who made 26 in a 57-run stand for seventh wicket and again looked invincible as he stormed to 91. Then he hit Adams to Graeme Smith at deep square leg to be out for only the second time in the series.
Gilchrist has now scored 457 in this series at an average of 228.5. Only two Australians have scored more runs than him in a three-Test series - Matthew Hayden who compiled549 at 109.8 against India last year and Mark Taylor who scored 531 at 128.25 against Pakistan in 1998/99.
Australia, then, were finally all out for 315, their lowest total of the series and it would have been a very good day for South Africa, relatively speaking, had Kirsten made it through to the close.