A year or two ago, if you had met any ardent cricket follower and told him that there will be a time in future where ‘Australia’ would be 21-9 and go on to wrap up for 47, he would have laughed in mockery but on 10-11-2010 in what transpired to be a maniacal day in the history of Test cricket the game lived up to what it was known for-ASTOUNDMENT. Not long ago was a time when the Australian team had titles like ‘the Invincibles’, “World-Beaters’, ‘Superpower’ and so on but now the so-called “Chokers” South Africa managed to make the former fold for the second lowest total in Test cricket.
What transpired in Cape Town, South Africa reiterated the fact that Test cricket still had the glory and sheen which it was said to have lost in the era of T20 cricket. The pitch did not have demons enough to claim 23 wickets on a single day with each team batting twice. As Harsha Bhogle said, “No pitch in the world is a 21 for 9 pitch“. So were the West Indian 19th century attack of Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts and Curtly Ambrose ripping the batting side apart? No! An all-rounder in Shane Watson and the debutant Vernon Philander had a dream outing with the ball.
Australia, after bowling out the South Africans for just 96 runs would have backed themselves to get around 150 runs and win the test match by repeating their bowling efforts. But the offensive ploy worked against their favour as they were 13-3 at Tea on Day 2 and went to 21-9 and had to be rescued only by their last wicket pair of Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle to save them from the embarrassment of going below New Zealand’s lowest total of 26 all-out.
It was evident that the Aussie batsmen lacked application and under-estimated the South African bowling attack especially the rookie Vernon Philander as he ended up with 8 wickets in the match winning the Man of the Match award. Michael Clarke who scripted a wonderful 151 in the first innings in the very same pitch against the same bowling attack would be aware of the fact that the team let itself down and deserved to lose the match.
Australia still had a glimmer of hope after their dismal outing with the bat as they had a decent 236 runs to defend but South Africa learnt from their mistakes and were desperate to shrug of the Chokers tag and make the most of the remarkable opportunity at hand. Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla brought up their centuries as South Africa cruised past the target with 8 wickets to spare to register one of their most convincing victories in less than 3 days!The Newlands game reflected the fact that the game of Cricket had the capability to produce major paradigm shifts in the momentum of the game as the advantage swung back and forth only to provide a treat for the spectators and reinstate the beauty of Test cricket. There was ample time to bat, bowl, field, have rain-delays and still finish the match in less than 3 days at Newlands, Cape Town.