April 4, 2006

Aus-RSA 3rd Test

Australia steal a two-wicket thriller..
With Langer injured, it was always going to be close if RSA took a couple quick wickets this morning...44 runs with 4 wickets in hand was really 44 runs from tail-enders...but having got his highest test score in the first-innings, it was up to Brett Lee to once again be the wall between RSA and an unlikely victory...
After Hussey and Martyn made a victory possible yesterday through a great partnership, today it was Lee who kept the RSA bowlers at bay after the early fall of Martyn right after reaching his century..and in what was really the last wicket for Australia (Langer was padded up to bat..but not sure how successfully he would have fended off the RSA bowlers hungry with the scent of victory.. what a disastrous 100th test for Langer..faced all of 1 ball in the test and that he took on his head!!), Lee and Kasprowicz took Aussie to a clean sweep of the series. (This 'last' wicket partnership of 19 to secure the victory reprised memories of a similar but greater effort by these two in the 2nd test against England at Edgbaston in the last Ashes series, where the same two batsmen had a great partnership of 59 for the last wicket before painfully falling short and losing the match by 2 runs...)

A token win for RSA would have been nice - esp. for Ntini, who bowled with great vigor and jigar in this test to claim 10 wickets in the test.. but in the end, as usual, someone or the other stood up when it it mattered for the Aussies.. (But...should be noted (see below for an example from the 3rd day) that a few criticial umpiring decisions, which sometimes can make all the difference in a close test like this, also went in the Aussies favor.)
I had dismissed Lee as a total waste..in the Akhtar mold.. all fired up but no control and not really effective as a wicket taker other than occasional bursts against certain teams that get unnerved by their pace but not only has his bowling this season been really good but he has also turned out to be quite a good consistent batsman in this series!!

Anyways, end of a good series.. An unprecedented 3-0 whitewash for RSA to go with the 2-0 series loss in Australia earlier this season.. but RSA gave a good fight in this series albeit in short sessions...but the Aussies have proven once again that against them you really need to keep fighting every single season...give them a little room and they come back and dominate and win easily like in many series in the past few years. (The Aussie-SL series in SL from two years ago (March 2004) where Aussies were dismissed for first innings totals of 120 & 220 but went on to win each of the tests convincingly to accomplish the almost-improbable tast of sweeping SL at home.. always comes to mind!!)

Cricinfo's series-end wrapup - Australian marks out of ten | South African marks out of ten

Umpiring Decisions: (Gleaned from Cricinfo reports)

Shaun Pollock was promoted to No. 6 in a bid to increase the score quickly and he re-floated South Africa as they coped with the loss of their two rocks Jacques Kallis and Ashwell Prince. Clark collected Kallis for 27 when he won an lbw decision from Tony Hill while Warne knocked over Prince to a catch that was so doubtful Andrew Symonds didn't seem to appeal for his take at leg slip. Steve Bucknor sensed an edge and South Africa stuttered as they lost 3 for 20.

And earlier today..

Brett Lee posted his highest Test score with 64 from 68 balls. Lee's second installment was a controversial and entertaining one as he collected his third half-century and walloped Ntini for a square-leg six. However, Lee escaped an lbw appeal from Shaun Pollock on 45 and next ball cut to Dippenaar at first slip, standing his ground until the umpires surprisingly gave him not out.

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