BENONI – Wiaan Mulder got his first ‘proper’ taste of how mean and nasty these Australians can be in a mini-battle with Mitchell Starc at Willowmoore Park on Saturday that had him ducking, weaving and copping a volley of verbals from the leader of the Australian attack.
Cricket SA announced the Test squad just as the teams were walking on to the field here in the morning, with Mulder’s inclusion something of a surprise.
By lunch, the Australians would have known that the fresh-faced kid batting at No 7 was in the squad for the first two Tests, and they’d have set out to make life as uncomfortable for him as possible when he batted again.
At around 1pm he made his way to the centre at the fall of the fifth wicket, and there was an almost immediate increase in the intensity of Australia’s play.
Suddenly there was a leg slip, a short leg and the volume of chatter increased.
Starc’s first ball to Mulder was short of a good length and veered away sharply from the 20-year-old.
The touring team’s spearhead followed the ball with a lengthy verbal inquisition, and bowled three bouncers thereafter, each followed by a few words.
By the end of the over, Nathan Lyon at leg slip had chimed in with his opinion, as had Cameron Bancroft at short leg.
It was a case of ‘welcome to the big time’ for Mulder.
SA 'A' have been bowled out on the final day of Australia's opening tour match of South Africa in Benoni. The hosts dismissed for 248 in their second innings leaving the visitors with a victory target of 140. Lyon 1/67, Starc 4/46, Von Berg 52 #SAAvAUS pic.twitter.com/LIpJjzwdcu
There was no let-up when Starc started his next over, this time testing Mulder’s front-foot play, the second ball was edged past third slip to the boundary for four. Starc smiled.
The fifth ball was nudged out on to the offside and Mulder crossed for a single.
Starc waited and had some more to say, and Mulder – to his credit – stared him down.
He may not quite be Starc’s stature – physically or in terms of his career – but he was not going to allow himself to be bullied.
Sadly for all involved – including the smattering of spectators, many of whom had made their way into the ground following the conclusion of the various junior league matches taking place on adjacent fields – umpire Johan Cloete raised his finger when Mitchell Marsh ambitiously appealed for lbw, with the ball appearing to be missing leg-stump.
Mulder’s innings lasted just 11 minutes and 11 balls, but it would have a great deal of insight into Test cricket, and of course just how competitive – and mean – these Australians really are as the South Africa A team were bowled out for 248, setting a target of 140 for victory, which they achieved with five wickets down.
The tourists got everything they could have wanted out of this match – miles in the legs for their bowlers and time at the crease for most of their batsmen, even if none of the top-order made a major impact.
They also got a five-wicket win in a match that was about as competitive as these kinds of tour matches can be, which will be good for their confidence.
There will be concerns over Nathan Lyon, who bowled 32 overs and took just one wicket for 112.
The first Test against South Africa starts at Kingsmead in Durban on Thursday.