It was Test cricket at its best – a battle of attrition, in which one team was trying its best to survive against the odds while the other was looking to bowl the opposition out to score a deserving win. In the end, the drawn result of the 2nd Test between Australia and South Africa at the Adelaide Oval was itself a deserving one, and a triumph for Test cricket.
After controlling almost the whole of the Test match, Austalia were stopped short thanks to one of the greatest rescue acts in Test cricket. Reeling at 45/4 in pursuit of 430 with more than a day to go, add to that one of your batting pivots being injured – an average team would have capitulated against the Aussies in this situation. But this was South Africa, and it is not for nothing that they have been ranked the best team in the world currently. Showing amazing grit and determination, it was a debutant who stole the show for South Africa. Francois ‘Faf’ Du Plessis would not have been in the side had it not been for JP Duminy’s injury at the Gabba. But ‘Faf’ grabbed his chance, and in the process became a hero for his country. He scored an unbeaten 110 off 376 balls, staying till the very end to stave off the rampaging Aussies, spearheaded by the tireless Peter Siddle. Faf du Plessis showed immense courage to star for his team on Test debut (source – iol.co.za)
Such an innings is always an outstanding show of patience and to top it all, Du Plessis actually achieved it on debut to make it sweeter. He was ably supported by AB de Villiers, who scored an eye-popping, uncharacteristic but extremely important 33 off 220 balls. Further underlining the fighting spirit of the Test champions was Jacques Kallis – declared unfit to bowl during the first day, he battled injury to score 46 valuable runs in the second innings. South Africa finally ended at 248/8 in 148 gripping overs – achieving a draw that was perhaps as sweet as a victory.
On the other hand, Australia will definitely feel disappointed, as they failed to deliver the knockout punch after delivering almost all of the blows. Michael Clarke’s record fourth double ton powered Australia to a big total, and since then, South Africa were always playing catch-up. Huge credit goes to Siddle, who is being sensibly used by Australia as a Tests-only bowler. He bowled 64 overs in the match, including a marathon 33 in the second innings, where he took 4 wickets, and did not lose his rhythm till the end despite being near-exhausted. The stage is now set for the deciding battle, and the venue is the bouncy track of Perth, where both teams will leave no stone unturned in winning the rubber. Australia have been the better team thus far, and a win will put them on top of the Test rankings. But the confidence-boosting draw at Adelaide will hold the Proteas in good stead.
At the time of writing this, news has broken that the Perth Test will be Ricky Ponting’s last. Will he go out on a high? That will only add to the anticipation. Adelaide was proof that there is nothing quite like Test cricket. Let us hope that Perth is even better. May the best team win!