Green pitch tailor-made for Gillespie
By Peter Deeley in Port Elizabeth
IT WAS a case of the biter bit as South Africa's batting was again decimated by the Australian attack yesterday on a Port Elizabeth pitch prepared to give the home side the edge.
In Johannesburg, in the first innings of the opening Test, Glenn McGrath effectively destroyed the opposition with four wickets. This time the force was with Jason Gillespie, 21 and in his fourth Test. He took five for 54 as South Africa were dismissed for 209.
Before the close Shaun Pollock had Matthew Hayden caught low at first slip, and Australia finished the opening day on 10 for one.
Last year Geoffrey Boycott declared the pitch should be dug up after the England Test. This time the groundsman, Andrew McLean, left some grass on a wicket that Australian captain Mark Taylor termed ``under-prepared'' beforehand.
Taylor had no hesitation in putting South Africa in and, when the ball was new, the home batsmen were unable to cope with the bounce and the lateral movement. By lunch they were 64 for four, then 95 for seven before old-stagers Brian McMillan and Dave Richardson added 85 in a two-hour partnership.
South Africa are floundering without a successful opening pair. Though Andrew Hudson was dropped after Johannesburg, Gary Kirsten frankly admitted he thought he might be the one to go.
He was one of three top batsmen to go for nought, fending off a rising ball from Gillespie to short-leg. The inexperience of young Jacques Kallis showed when he got one from Gillespie rising under his armpit and was caught at fine-leg.
Adam Bacher and Hansie Cronje were both struck by deliveries from McGrath, which helped soften them up. First Bacher drove well away from his body and was caught at gully; then the South African captain chopped down on a delivery and the ball rolled off his foot on to the stumps.
It might have been five wickets before lunch when Daryll Cullinan pulled McGrath. The ball was caught by Hayden, but only after it had first hit his visor. In the second over after lunch Cullinan drove to gully.
Herschelle Gibbs, in his fourth Test, was the one high-order batsman to show any composure against the moving ball. Mark Waugh dropped Gibbs at slip - his second error in the series but Gillespie then delivered a fine inswinger to flatten his off-stump and he had Pollock leg before with his next ball.
Shane Warne could get little turn, and Richardson banged him over long-on for a six, but the leg-spinner had his revenge when the batsman tried to hit him over the top. McMillan's gallant innings of 55 in three hours ended when he was caught sweeping Warne.
Bob Woolmer, South Africa's coach, said he had not asked for any particular pitch preparation. ``They were not my orders; they must have come from above.''
Day 2 Report
South African pace attack turn screw
By Peter Roebuck, in Port Elizabeth
AN ASTONISHING day has ended with South Africa in command. Notions of Australian invincibility lie shattered like broken glass upon the floor. Despite losing Shaun Australian Pollock to injury within a few minutes of play resuming the home side played with such tenacity that the visitors were overwhelmed. Australia's batsmen made a dreadful hash of it on a slow and slightly uneven pitch. South Africa played upon their nerves, and preyed on their desire to dominate. Avoiding bumpers and half-volleys and giving batsmen few chances to play to leg, the bowlers contained, frustrated and eventually dismissed their opponents for a miserable score. Bogged down, the Aussies fretted and fussed and could not break free. South Africa scored an important lead and added to it confidently in the last hours of a windswept day.
Mark Taylor was first to go, nibbling at a delivery from Pollock that cut away. His feet had failed him again. Pollock limped from the field with a sore hamstring and is not expected to return. Thereafter Allan Donald bowled long spells with the stiff breeze at his back whilst his colleagues toiled away outside off stump. Matthew Elliott and Mark Waugh built a steady partnership, Waugh driving smoothly as his partner grafted against an attack determined to hold its ground.
It took the arrival of the home captain at the bowling crease to produce a third wicket, Waugh chipping across an off-cutter that might have touched leg stump. Steve Waugh appeared and was soon defending staunchly as the slowness of the pitch and the tightness of the bowling denied him swift runs. All too soon Elliott's 123-ball innings ended. As the batsmen tried to steal a single, Cronje misfielded. Belatedly sent back, Elliott could not beat the throw and another wicket had been wasted. Minutes later Waugh followed, caught behind as he pushed at Brian McMillan's big swinger.
McMillan's return has strengthened the home team. He is unflappable and combative and he brings with him an expectation of victory. Also he has a happy knack of scoring important runs and taking crucial wickets (63 of his 72 Test victims have been celebrated batsmen). McMillan soon struck a second time, as Michael Bevan moved far across his stumps and edged a glance.
Becalmed, Ian Healy hooked wildly and was taken at square leg whereupon Greg Blewett was bowled between bat and pad by a scorcher from Donald. This was a deserved wicket for a fast bowler who did not flag throughout the innings. Donald's first spell had been probing and his second effort was better still, one for three in five overs. He pinned the batsman down and took his wickets at the other end. No one could escape him, no one felt confident enough to play their strokes. Indeed, the Aussies scarcely t ook a short single and hardly once played an agressive stroke.
Soon afterwards the innings limped to its conclusion. South Africa had taken an improbable lead of 101 runs. Here was a reminder of the fallibility of the Australian batting. Brilliant on good pitches, these batsmen fail when the going is hard. It is hard to imagine that David Boon and Alan Border would have been so easily brushed aside. Australia remain vulnerable in low scoring matches and on pitches that favour seam bowling.
South Africa had been rewarded for their patience and the opening pair ensured the advantage was not wasted by playing a wide range of hearty strokes. By stumps Steve Waugh had been forced from the field and the Australians were in considerable disarray. Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath bowled some testing deliveries but could not sustain pressure on the batsmen. Shane Warne found some spin but the pitch was too slow for him.
Accordingly, South Africa will be confident of squaring the series and perhaps they will dethrone the champions next week in Pretoria. Probably the Australians paid for their own impatience and for their own self-confidence. Local newspapers have been bursting with bold statements from the Aussies saying they couldn't be beaten. It is one of cricket's greatest assets that it takes a toll of anyone daring to think himself invulnerable. By no means are these Australians yet a team for all seasons and all p itches.
Day 3 Report
Australian hopes for victory rest between Waughs
by Peter Deeley in Port Elizabeth
THIS bizarre Test continues to defy logic and confound prediction. In normal circumstances you would say that Australia are poised to wrap up the series today but we have come to expect the abnormal here.
The tourists have two days in which to make 125 runs, the Waugh twins are on the warpath and there is still depth in batting among the seven wickets remaining.
Yet there will undoubtedly be the vagaries of this pitch to be encountered in the morning session from the moisture that gathers overnight under the covers.
Then the likes of Allan Donald will be at their most dangerous. The disappointment for South Africa is that Shaun Pollock is out with a hamstring injury.
Brian McMillan is still as strong as a horse and has stepped up to partner Donald but the loss of Pollock after taking two wickets in the six overs he bowled in that d^Nb^Icle of an Australian first innings could just be the deciding factor.
Hansie Cronje is having to bowl more than he would probably like and Jacques Kallis does not have the variety to worry top-order batsmen. As for Paul Adams, he has been erratic and expensive in the context of such a low-scoring game.
Mark Waugh hit him for a huge six towards the close yesterday and even the spinner's team-mates seemed to be getting restless until Adams suddenly brought off a superlative, low return catch to dismiss the very dangerous Matthew Elliott.
One of the extraordinary features of the game is that after a lethal morning session from the batsmen's viewpoint, the boot is on the other foot in the final two hours when the sun and wind has dried out the pitch.
Australia discovered that when, trailing by 101 on the first innings, heads began to droop as the South African opening pair of Gary Kirsten and Adam Bacher put on an untroubled 83 on Saturday evening.
When play recommenced yesterday, however, the match might have been on a different planet let alone a different pitch. In two hours and 25 minutes Australia ran through South Africa, dismissing them for the addition of a paltry 85.
That left the visitors needing 270 for victory. There were the early predictable stumbles as Australia slumped to 30 for two before Mark Waugh and Elliott capitalised on the increasingly benign nature of the wicket to add 83 in 93 minutes.
Near the close Mark Waugh became only the second player in the game to reach fifty. Australian coach Geoff Marsh acknowledged the need for a more positive approach than in the first innings, when Australia's 108 came at less than one and a half runs an over.
Jason Gillespie again did the damage in the morning, collecting three wickets to give him a match analysis of eight for 103. Cronje battled 90 minutes for 27 before becoming one of Mchael Bevan's three victims in a 10-over spell.
Shane Warne weighed in with two at the end, though his demeanour at Adams's downfall was unattractive. Adams tried to reverse-sweep the leg-spinner and shovelled the ball into Mark Taylor's hands at slip.
Warne fell about laughing and cackling, actions which the South African coach Bob Woolmer condemned as ``a little disappointing. There was no need to mock him.''
Taylor failed once again as McMillan trapped him back on his stumps for 13. The Australian captain has now gone 15 months without reaching fifty and pressures are growing at home for him to be replaced.
Day 4 Report
Waugh's 116 conjures Australian triumph
By Peter Deeley in Port Elizabeth
HE finale was totally in character with this outlandish Test, with Ian Healy swinging a six into the crowd to give Australia a two-wicket victory and clinch the series.
Few Tests can have finished in such an emphatic manner, but then few have swung so violently from one extreme to the other in the space of 3.5 days.
Australia's captain Mark Taylor put it above all his memorable matches - even above the win in Jamaica, which put his side top of the Test pyramid. That is not surprising when you consider that the tourists were facing a brick wall after the second evening, with South Africa 184 ahead and all their second-innings wickets in hand.
Mark Waugh played what he termed afterwards as the knock of his career, an 11th Test century of 116, when only one other player in the game passed fifty. He was bowled by a Jacques Kallis in-swinger when Australia needed 12 runs.
His was the first of three wickets to fall in 11 balls. Michael Bevan, after sharing in a partnership of 66, was caught low at slip off Hansie Cronje. Then Shane Warne was adjudged leg before to Kallis - one of three wickets in this match where television replays suggested umpire Venkat failed to spot a no-ball.
Taylor admitted that in the Australian dressing room ``our hearts were in our mouths. There's no Mr Cool in those situations.''
With five runs wanted, Australia's No 10, gangling Jason Gillespie, played out the over. Healy at the other end defended Cronje's first two deliveries: then came one that drifted towards the pads and the vice-captain, almost lazily, hit it high over the square-leg fence.
Healy's impish look suggested he could hardly believe that his cheek had paid off so handsomely and he and Gillespie hugged each other in celebration.
So Australia paid off an old score - that five-run defeat in Sydney four years ago. It also meant South Africa lost their first home series since their re-emergence from the cold.
As if the loss of Shaun Pollock from the attack was not sufficient of a millstone, Brian McMillan needed injections for a bruised left heel before the start.
With the pitch not displaying its customary devil at the outset, neither McMillan nor Allan Donald made the breakthrough South Africa were crying out for.
Steve Waugh, however, was struggling when Paul Adams came on and, facing Kallis, he lunged into a juicy half-volley and was superbly caught by a diving Cronje in the covers.
Shortly before lunch Greg Blewett drove over a drifting full-length ball from Adams and Australia went in still needing another 66 runs.
The new ball, taken the moment it was due, with Australia wanting another 44, offered South Africa's last chance. But Donald was tired, and McMillan was limping, and they went for a priceless 29 runs as Mark Waugh reached his hundred in 4.75 hours.
The nearest Donald came to a wicket was when Waugh reached for a wide ball and toe-ended it to Daryll Cullinan in the slips, who put the chance down. Here again television showed it was a no-ball - not a happy example of umpiring at this level. That apart, this was an extraordinary game. Taylor rightly said: ``After this, anyone who says Test cricket is dead is a fool.''
For the final game starting in Pretoria on Friday, South Africa have named the 13-man party at Port Elizabeth, except that Brett Schultz replaces the injured Pollock.