The keys to success: Australia v South Africa, 2nd test, day 3

It was another amazing day at the Adelaide Oval yesterday with the South African team showing why they are rated the best team in the world with a stunning fightback.

It all started with the ball for the Proteas with their bowlers, led by the seemingly irrepressible Morne Morkel, strangling out the Australian bottom order after the dismissal of Clarke very early.  I am certain that if you had have asked Graeme Smith this morning if he would be happy with Australia only getting to 550 yesterday I am certain he would have been happy to agree.

That was the start of a fairly poor day for the Australians because once it became the Proteas time to bat, Australia’s bowlers were as innocuous as they were on day 1 at the Gabba.  The proof of this is in the wicket takers column of the score book: the only Australian bowler to take a wicket was David Warner with the other wicket falling to a run out.

Day two was obviously South Africa’s day and day three beckons as possibly the most important day of this test match.  After Australia decisively won day 1 and South Africa fought back on day 2, here are my keys for success on day 3 at the Adelaide Oval:

1. Will Pattinson’s efforts with the ball match his efforts on the sledge?

James Pattinson appears to Australia’s appointed enforcer with the ball and has made his presence obviously felt through his overt sledging of the Proteas in the second innings at the Gabba.  I do not have any objection to sledging: it is part of the game.  However, the best sledgers are those who are also players who perform; viz., G McGrath and S K Warne come to mind.  Yesterday Pattinson was simply ordinary and leaked runs at 5 runs per over when the Australians needed him to take early wickets.  Whispering in Smith’s ear when he was on 8 that he was “f*cking all over [Smith]” obviously did not help.  Hopefully that performance will be humbling for him and he will come out today with a little less lip and more focus on bowling.  Australia definitely need him at the top of his form.

2. Is there a big hundred coming from Graeme Smith?

Graeme Smith was excellent yesterday and led the way for his team after the dominance of the Australians on day 1.  His opposing captain has made an art form this calendar year of performing when his team needs it most and the Proteas need Smith to push on for a big innings today if they are to consolidate their position in the game.  Smith can score big hundreds with 4 of his 25 test centuries doubles and a further 4 over 150. Australia will be desperate for his wicket early in part in the hope of it precipitating an Australianesque collapse.

3. Can Lyon do more than contain and lead the attack?

Nathan Lyon bowled a little over 35% of the overs sent down to the Proteas and it seems likely that he will bowl a large amount of overs today.  From what I have seen he did not really look like taking a wicket though, so whilst he did keep the run rate of the South Africans down they rarely looked troubled.  If the pacemen from the land down under continue to look as penetrative as a blunt spoon it will be up to Lyon to lead the attack and take wickets.  If he cannot it could be long day in the field for the Australians.

4. Run Jacques Run: just how bad is that hamstring?

Because of the amount of time he spent off field, Kallis cannot come into bat until the fall of the 5th wicket in the Proteas innings.  Additionally, because of the change in playing conditions he will not be entitled to use the services a runner.  Depending on the state of the South African’s innings when he comes in whether or not he can bat effectively could prove a key turning point in length of time the Proteas are able to bat.

5. Which wicketkeeper is the part timer: Wade or De Villiers?

This is obviously a rhetorical question given that is Wade who is the full time wicketkeeper, however on today’s evidence one would have struggled to realize that.  A very ordinary missed stumping chance compounded by letting through 7 byes (when his counterpart, the “part time” De Villiers did not give up one in 550 runs) are indicative that it was not Wade’s best day with the gloves.  He will need to be on his game on what might be a very long day in the field for the Australians.  A dropped chance or another missed stumping might well see Australia’s now limited grip on the game slip away completely.

There have been many twists and turns in this test match already: today may well bring many more.  I can’t wait!