Proteas have tough job on day two

2014-02-13 11:04

Australia: 297/4 (Marsh 122*, Smith 91*, Doolan 27, Steyn 2/54, McLaren 1/53, Morkel 1/56)

Shaun Marsh’s superb second test century and Steven Smith’s excellent helping hand left the Proteas with a mountain to climb on day two.

The day began well yesterday, and the hosts had Australia reeling at 98/4 after David Warner, Alex Doolan and Michael Clarke gifted their wickets.

Only Chris Rogers’ dismissal was a result of excellent bowling. Warner chopped onto his stumps; Doolan unluckily found Alviro Petersen off a full-blooded pull shot, and Clarke fell to a short-ball trap.

Other than that, it was all Australia as they wrested the initiative with controlled accumulation. With the likes of Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson to come, the Proteas will have to strike early today to stop Australia from running away with the game. The visitors scored more runs in each session and will go home the happier of the two.

Having been asked to bat first on a greenish track with even bounce but minimal devils, it was a decent return by the visitors, who were buoyed by an unbeaten 199-run partnership between Marsh and the in-form Steven Smith.

The latter seems to find his groove when the team is in trouble and was largely untroubled in his stay at the crease. Like Marsh, he started slowly, getting to his 50 in 118 balls. Marsh, who reached his landmark in 174 balls, was a study in accumulation, compilation and acceleration.

He reached his 50 off 101 balls after weathering some intensely accurate bowling, especially from Dale Steyn and Ryan McLaren. They consistently probed outside offstump, but once Marsh’s eye was in, there was no stopping the West Australian left-hander.

Smith was content to hold up in the slipstream, but did not pass up scoring opportunities when they came along. He dealt with the spinners with ease, like most New South Welshmen who are brought up on turning tracks do, but he was equally severe on the pace bowlers.

It was a long day for the Proteas after an excellent start and if they don’t take early wickets today, it is not going to get better.

Shot of the day: Shaun Marsh is an elegant version of his father Geoff, who was more grit and substance in a time when Australia was big on style but less on fight.

As he tucked into the Proteas’ bowlers, he unfurled one of the toughest shots in the batting manual, the straight drive past the bowler. It left Ryan McLaren quiet and bemused as he walked back to his mark.

Missed chance of the day: There were not many of these going around, but when a set batsman like Marsh gives a chance, it needs to be taken.

The very next ball after his elegant drive, McLaren dished up a well-disguised slower ball that Marsh could only check drive. Fortunately for him, he had enough power to clear Robin Peterson at cover and continue on his march to a second test century.

Near-collision of the day: Robin Peterson is one of the more athletic fielders in the Proteas team, but does not look like one who would run over a fellow cricketer. He nearly bounced umpire Aleem Dar out of the way when in chasing a skew throw, but Dar’s reactions were quick enough to get him to safety.

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