The first Test between South Africa and Australia at the Gabba, Brisbane may have ended in a high-scoring draw, but there can be no two ways as to who would be the better satisfied side following the conclusion of the rain-marred opening Test. Although the Proteas held the upper hand for most part of the day one and day three (day two was washed out due to rain), they couldn’t maintain their stranglehold on Australia on the last two days. Australia pulled all the momentum towards their side and, unlike South Africa, ensured that it stayed with them throughout the end.
The last two sessions on the final day amply demonstrated which team held the upper hand. South Africa hung on for a draw, but they lost a few too many wickets for their liking and, in the end, had to battle towards saving the game. Although they weren’t in a desperate situation, a number of South Africa’s batsmen looked edgy, and were dominated by the Australian bowlers. Being the number one side, they were the one who should have dictated the terms, but it was far from the case, as the runs dried up, and South Africa were hell bent on defending everything. Of course, they did the right thing in the sense that none of the batsmen played rash strokes, but had South Africa lost a couple more wickets, they could have had to rue the lack of runs scored.
The visitors’ approach was in the stark contrast to that of Australia in the first innings, when they found themselves in early trouble. Having posted a good first innings total, South African bowlers had the Aussies ina lot of bother early on and, at that stage, it seemed the Proteas could clean up the Australians rather easily. Instead, Ed Cowan and skipper Michael Clarke led the hosts to a mature comeback. While Cowan was comfortably holding one end up, Clarke was prepared to play his strokes whenever the opportunity presented itself. This in spite of the fact that the team was on the back foot. Clarke’s approach not only demonstrated his positive attitude, but also the faith he has in himself.
Once Cowan and Clarke got themselves in, they made sure that South Africa were punished.Cowan’s maiden century is something he will not only cherish for the rest of his life, but could also go on to be the turning point in his career. So far, he had looked good at the crease but the big scores were eluding him. As for Clarke, his third double ton in less than a year proves that he has taken a liking to leadership, and his penchant for big scores is only growing. Mike Hussey also did well not to waste the opportunity, and rubbed salt in South Africa’s wound by cracking a quick century.
The major difference between the two sides was undoubtedly the pace of James Pattinson. While Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel are quick, neither of them could make the batsman hop like Pattinson. South Africa managed to escape with a draw in spite of his hostile spell. In the psychological scorecard though it’s Australia 1, South Africa 0.
--By A Cricket Analyst