It was as if he hadn't been away from the game at all given the way Jason Gillespie made his return to the Australian team. Gillespie took 3/40 from his ten overs today, bowling those overs in spells of five, three and two overs.
"Jason bowled really well today, his form in the nets has been good, he's been keen and today was really encouraging," Steve Waugh said after the Aussie spearhead picked up two late wickets to complement his earlier spells.
After Shaun Pollock won the toss and elected to bat, the South Australian speedster took up proceedings from the Latrobe Street end. Following Glenn McGrath's opening over, he basically resumed as if he had experienced no layoff whatsoever, beating left-hander Gary Kirsten's forward defensive prod with his very first ball. His next delivery was pushed to backward point fairly safely and then came some drama: Kirsten edged a drive over the head of Mark Waugh, fielding at second slip. The paceman's eventful opening over ended the way it had started, with the veteran left-hander playing and missing outside the off stump.
The opening ball of his second over again caused some consternation for the South Africans, this time with the running between the wickets, as Andrew Hall was nearly thrown out by Ian Harvey at mid off after he had backed up a bit far following a firm Kirsten off-drive. Kirsten himself may have been a tad rattled; he survived a very close lbw shout to the following delivery which did pitch on the stumps but which Daryl Harper adjudged to have been missed the off stump - narrowly.
Gillespie was getting as much bounce as McGrath had been, if not more, with 'keeper Adam Gilchrist taking most deliveries at chest height or better. It took until his third over until eventually he had a go at Hall and, with his second ball at the right hander, he beat him for pace between bat and pad.
The right armer was rested after his fifth over and returned to the attack immediately after the mid-way point of the innings. He had a fairytale result with his second ball, bending back Jacques Kallis' middle stump as the South African right hander advanced in an effort to strike him back over his head. Up until this stage of the series it had been interesting to note that hardly a bumper had been bowled given the bounce in the Les Burdett/Strath Ayr pitch. So, as any typical fast bowler would do when he senses a batsman is getting onto the front foot, Gillespie bounced Jonty Rhodes in his seventh over. It resulted in Rhodes almost ending up flat on his back.
Gillespie's career to date could be best categorised as unlucky and this was beautifully exemplified in the last over of the fast bowler's second spell when Mark Boucher hoicked a shortish ball high to the deep of the backward square leg position. It was here that the usually reliable Michael Bevan grassed the chance when the 'keeper was on just eight. This incident seemed to deflate Gillespie temporarily and it also caused a fairly lengthy delay as Bevan required some treatment to the top joint of his right index finger which had been bent awkwardly as a result of the dropped catch.
With the figures of 1/28 against his name from eight overs, Gillespie was rested by captain Steve Waugh. Waugh then showed his faith in the young fast bowler by giving him the opportunity to bowl the last two overs of the innings from the Latrobe Street end. Gillespie didn't let his skipper down either; he picked up the wickets of Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener while conceding a mere twelve runs. The other interesting aspect of the effort, and this would apply to most of the Australian bowlers in the two matches played so far, is that Gillespie bowled just one wide despite little first class cricket in the last four months.
For the recors, the Aussies have hardly bowled a wide or no ball in the two games played so far. On Wednesday they gave South Africa just one extra ball (a wide) and today just three with McGrath and Andrew Symonds overstepping and Gillespie guilty of the side's only wide.
Gillespie's exciting return may spell some doom and gloom for one member of the Australian cricket fraternity, however. Namely, Victorian swing bowler Damien Fleming, who was McGrath's regular opening bowling partner in the side in Test matches played in Australia last summer. Although his current absence is the result of a troublesome knee injury, thrity-five year old Fleming would do well to play a lot more Test cricket given the current crop of bowlers in the Aussie stable. Nonetheless, given the goings on from the tall frame of Jason Gillespie on a cold Friday afternoon in Melbourne, it seems that Australian cricket and its followers will still have a lot to look forward to this season.
Australia vs South Africa
South Africa tour of Australia