The First Test in this mini-series will be over by tomorrow – Day 3. Yet in many ways it will have been a five day match.
On Day 2a, Australia resumed on 214 for 8. Clarke and Siddall, enjoying the bright day, put on a tenacious 59. Clarke was eventually last man out for a very special 151 having taken his side’s score to 284.
South Africa duly reached 49 for 1 in the remaining hour of the extended session before lunch: gutsy Test cricket with the Proteas a nose ahead.
On Day 2c South Africa scored 81 for 1.
Third Man realises that this doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that was because in Day 2b not a lot actually made sense – nineteen wickets falling for 94 runs.
As Australia made their way onto the field for the afternoon session it was if, like Alice, they had stepped through a mirror on the way out of the dressing room and entered another universe.
In the post-play press conference Clarke was to explain: “Twas bryllyg, and ye slythy toves Did gyre and gymble in ye wabe: All mimsy were ye borogoves; And ye mome raths outgrabe.”
Through the Looking Glass, Australia proceeded to take 9 South African wickets for 47 runs with Watson jagging the ball sideways and taking 5 / 21 – that is 5 wickets in 21 balls.
Harry Harris picked up four and Siddell had the joy or running out Morne Morkel (no nickname necessary) with a direct hit.
However, Australia’s key mistake of the day was not finding the mirror to step back through before starting their innings. (TM blames Australia’s lack of a full time manager/coach for this.)
In Looking Glass Land everything is displayed reversed in reflection symmetry. So it came as no surprise to those few, who were in possession of the facts, that South Africa then proceeded to bowl Australia out for precisely 47.
Mats Vernon Philander took 5 for 15 in 7 overs – an experience he is unlikely to forget.
At one point Australia’s last pair needed almost to double their side’s score inorder to avoid it being the lowest total in Test history, ever, anywhere, anyhow.
When Smith came out to bat for the second time that day, statisticians had the further thrill (if they needed one) of witnessing for the third time in Test cricket all four innings of a match taking place on a single day.
In their excitement they may have missed Smith and Rudolph counter attacking by stepping through the dressing room mirror back into the world that the day had begun in all those wickets ago
Here the sun was still shinning and South Africa were able to move assertively to the close of play, 155 runs behind Australia with 9 second wickets and three fifths of the match in hand, Mr Cricket having dropped a sitter off Amla on the last ball to complete his agony of a day.
It must be said that during Day 2b the bowling was very good; accurate in line and length. Defensive caution availed not and those like Hussey, Hadden and Johnson, who threw the bat, were punished the first time they did so.
The DRS was used four times in the Australian innings 3 times at the request of the Proteas. All four decisions went in the home side’s favour which especially pleased Ponting whose duck was the second occasion in the match that third umpire, Billy Bowden, from his little room upstairs raised his crooked finger.
Rationalists will be keeping a close eye on the weather forecast for Cape Town tomorrow – which promises more of the same.
Irrationalists will see South Africa’s dilemma: do they smash every mirror on the ground and risk the resulting ill-luck or do they accept the hazard of accidentally straying back into Looking Glass Land?
Who said cricket was an easy game?