An intriguing day beckons at the Gabba today, with today’s action being determinative of whether the game petters out into a boring draw or whether the Proteas are striving for victory on Day 5. I consider there are 5 keys to today’s play that will determine which course the game takes:
1. The Clarke Factor: Say what you like about his captaincy since taking the reigns from Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke has made a fine art in recent times of coming to the wicket with his side three wickets down for not many and righting the ship. So it was again yesterday, as the captain strode to the wicket with the score on a precarious 3-40 and again he righted the ship to put the innings back on an even keel at 3-111. His appetite for big runs last year shows he can bat for long periods and he will need to today to secure what would be honourable draw for his team.
2. The Kleinveldt Conundrum: South Africa’s fourth bowler did not set the world on fire yesterday and will be needed today in the humid heat of the Gabba to bowl a tighter line and to keep the runs to a minimum while giving spells to his more vaunted counterparts Steyn, Morkel and Philander. Without a recognised spinner and seemingly seeking to limit the overuse of Kallis’ back, overs from Kleinveldt could be a determining factor in whether Australia can bat out the day.
3. DRS Drama: Yesterday again saw the DRS system come into play and again saw a wicket overturned as a result of a missed no ball call. Regardless of your views of the technology is it abundantly clear that it is playing a role in the outcome of this fixture. Success today could well hinge, in addition to the bowlers delivering legal deliveries, on who uses the DRS technology the best. South Africa did not loose one of their challenges last night on the Cowan referral so both sides still have two challenges at their disposal.
4. Fever Pitch: Most pundits have noted that the pitch has been slower than it had been in previous years and on the evidence I have seen there can be no denying that. Today presents as a different proposition with blue sky and beating sun being the order of the day. This will dry out the wicket and, as usually happens at the Gabba, make it harder and faster. This could well be a double edge sword for both teams: for Australia it will be become better for batting and for South Africa it will more suit its fast bowling quintet than at any time during the game. Which team uses the changing conditions to their advantage will be the victor of Day 4.
5. Lock it in Eddie: Yesterday we saw just how effective Ed Cowan can be as an opening batsman for Australia. He was judicious in his leaving and when the ball was in “his wheelhouse” he pounced. Impressively he played the way all cricketers have been coached since day dot: he rolled his wrists on his horizontal bat shots and played them along the ground. Today is a massive opportunity for Cowan to force feed the pundits (principally on social media) who don’t think he is up to the test stage a large piece of humble pie.
As I said in the preamble, an intriguing day beckons at the Gabba. First ball will be bowled at 9:30am and I for one can not wait.