Day 2 of 5:
South Africa 152 and 99
Australia 218 and 34/4
Australia won by 6 wickets
Johannesburg - It took less than two days for Australia to take the lead in the three match series and besides South Africa’s poor batting, there’ll also be question marks about the Gabba pitch.
It didn’t cause any physical danger for batters, but it was hopelessly too favourable for the bowlers and rendered a competitive contest impossible.
Pitches for every international match are rated, with negative ratings resulting in demerit points, the accumulation of which could lead to a suspension of staging rights.
If the International Cricket Council deemed the Rawalpindi pitch that hosted the first Test between England and Pakistan recently as “below average” because it provided “almost no assistance to any type of bowler,” it will be interesting to see what their assessment is of the Gabba.
It was difficult to discern the pitch from the outfield on the first day and by day two it had sped up, the divots - which resulted from the ball pitching on the soft surface - had hardened causing indentations, which led to inconsistent bounce.
Take the pitch, add an already hesitant Proteas batting line-up, coupled with an Australian attack that took lessons from its somewhat below-par performance in the first innings and the outlook for the Proteas was bleak.
The hosts took a 66-run lead after the first innings, with Travis Head falling eight runs short of hundred, while Kagiso Rabada picked 4/76 and Marco Jansen 3/32.
Then it was South Africa’s turn again, and like Eskom’s inability to create electricity, the batters’ inability to score runs was entirely predictable. Dean Elgar, Rassie van der Dussen - to a jaffa from Mitchell Starc, his 300th Test wicket - and Sarel Erwee were all gone by the eighth over.
Temba Bavuma was once again resolute and together with Khaya Zondo, added 42 for the fourth wicket. While there were doubts around Zondo’s selection, given he’d not really done much with the bat domestically this season, nor in the warm-up match, on Sunday he played confidently especially towards the end of the innings in combination with no.11 Lungi Ngidi.
Before that Bavuma was dismissed lbw by one that spun sharply from Nathan Lyon for 29.
Zondo ended not out on 36, hitting six fours in an innings that lasted 85 balls. He played some excellent shots against Pat Cummins and Starc during that partnership with Ngidi, and will be feeling a lot better about himself heading to the second Test in Melbourne.
The pitch continued to make life hard for the batters as the Australians discovered in their pursuit of 34 in the last session. They lost four wickets - all to Kagiso Rabada - before four wides from Anrich Nortje ended the match. In fact there 19 extras which was the top score in the second innings, 15 of them wides.
The Proteas, while knowing they will have to deal with their own shortcomings with the bat, will also be glad to have created some scars with the Australian batters particularly Warner, who fell for a golden duck in the first innings and made just three on Sunday.
The second Test starts at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Boxing Day.