Over in Kotla, the old firm of Tendulka and Laxman were back in harness employing their considerable experience in Test cricket to secure victory for India in their first five-dayer played at home this year.
In Cape Town Graeme Smith led South Africa out for their first experience in 305 days of what we are assured is the players’ preferred form of the game.
In fact the last time the Proteas played Test cricket films were silent and shot in black and white. This is a reminder to readers that in this series (because India are not involved) players can call on the full DRS facilities which include the silent (and black and white) assassin which is the ‘fess-up machine’, HOTSPOT.
Smith won the toss, felt the ball would move sideways and asked Australia to bat. His pet ridgeback, Dale Steyn, as you’d expect after being caged up for three hundred days, couldn’t get off the leash and out onto the veld soon enough, removing Watty Watson for 3, and Punter Ponting for 8, with his new bowling partner Philander reminding the Australian selectors that you do need some basic technique to play this form of the game and Hughes doesn’t have any.
This brought Clarke to the party atmosphere that is Newlands when SA are on top. The
playful bow-wow lion dog Steyn leapt up to lick his face, not once but twice and barked a lot.
It proved very misguided. When will
cricketers bowlers learn. Some batsmen like to be gee’d up. With the ball swinging disconcertingly-late at 150 klicks and zipping off the seam, the extraordinary Clarke proceeded to play surely the best innings of his life, as ordinary cricketers like the aforementioned Watson and Ponting, and subsequently Marsh, Hussey and Hadden prodded and pushed.
Clarked reached his hundred off 108 balls and finished the day when bad light and rain spoilt the fun still going strongly with exactly half ofAustralia’s 214 for 8. Seldom can one batsman, and a captain for that matter, have played with such conviction, such ease, such retribution when all around him was going to the dogs.
Finally the DRS worked wonders. Umpires Gould and Doctrove had their decisions, dignity and expertise upheld. And when a ball tore through the defences of Mr Cricket at lightening speed, the batsman waited for the decision and walked off without complaint immediately he saw the finger rise.
He knew he’d hit it – as all batsmen do – but he also knew the evidence would soon be on the screen in black and white for all to see.