Day 5 of the 1st test of this summer of cricket has dawned with Australian in an impregnable position 37 runs in front with 6 wickets in hand. With 95 overs to play it seems that the only genuinely available result for the teams at the end of today is a somewhat “dreary” draw.
However, with South Africa, it must be conceded, out of the game for Australia to win they will rely on the follow keys to success:
1. Getting the declaration right: Forget what the fools in the Channel 9 commentary box were saying yesterday: there was never any chance of Michael Clarke declaring whilst the Australian’s had their metaphorical foot on the throat of the South Africans. This is a 3 test series and breaking down the South Africans yesterday was much too important. Today however is a different story: making the declaration will be essential to any prospect of victory. So when is the right time? It strikes me that with the fire power in the South African batting line up at least 55 overs will be needed for the necessary 9 wickets to be taken which means a declaration 30 minutes after lunch is around the mark.
2. Will the real James Pattinson please stand up? There is some thought, and statistical back up to support it, that Pattinson bowls better in the second innings of games. Certainly last time out at the Gabba for Victoria, Pattinson cut a swathe through the Queensland batting order in the second innings to take a 5 for and, indeed, on debut against the Black Caps last year bowled one of the best spells seen at the Gabba in some time in the second innings of that game. If Australia is any chance of success Pattinson must fire today.
3. How will the pitch play? It would be pretty fair to say that the pitch is fairly benign at present and is just excellent for batting. This wicket has all the hallmarks of the pitch put out in the 1st test of the 2010 Ashes series when England, anchored by 235 not out from A Cook, batted for an extended period to save the game. I don’t expect any demons in the wicket today on the basis of that evidence and the evidence of yesterday. A pitch so benign will do Australia no favours.
4. Where are the South Africans mentally? Yesterday would have been a massive shot to the ego of this very good South African team. Much vaunted as the best bowling attack in the world they failed to take a wicket by ordinary means and were dominated by a batting line up under broad questioning about form and selection. Whilst I have no doubt the South Africans are a bit flat this morning over their eggs on toast, this still is the best team in the world so I expect them to come out mentally prepared to save the game today. This again will do Australia no favours.
So where does all of this leave us: I think it is pretty safe to say that today will petter out to a dreary draw at around 4pm Brisbane time. There is just too much class in the South African batting line up for there to be any other result. As an Australian fan though I am allowed to dream and if all of a sudden the South Africans are 3 down for not many chasing 180 odd to avoid an innings defeat it might be the right time for Australia to exorcise the demons of Sydney in 1993.