Proteas’ hero ‘over the moon’

2008-12-28 00:00

Melbourne — South Africa’s hero in the second Test against Australia being played at the MCG, JP Duminy, says he cannot believe the situation he finds himself in.

Duminy (24) scored 166 yesterday, the second-highest individual effort by a South African on this famous Melbourne ground after Aubrey Faulkner (204) and the highest for the last 98 years.

The Proteas team produced what was probably the biggest turnaround in a Test match since India followed on and then came from behind to beat Australia at the famous Eden Gardens ground in Kolkata in 2001.

The Proteas started the day on 198 for seven with a first innings deficit of 196 runs and only tail-enders left to assist Duminy.

By the close South Africa had taken a first innings lead of 65 runs, which Australia had reduced by four, but with all their second innings wickets intact going into day four.

Duminy said afterwards: “I’m over the moon. It will still take some time to sink in. I came here not expecting to play in any of the Test matches and here I’m scoring a century in my second Test match on the great cricketing colosseum of the world … amazing!”

Duminy paid tribute to the role played by his partners:

“Dale [Steyn] took a lot of blows to the body and also played and missed a few times, but he just stuck it out. He showed a hell of a lot of guts. We talked our way through the partnership.

“One of the keys to our successes was that, as we had done in Perth, we only thought in terms of playing overs. Our original target was to bat for 30 overs because we knew that would give us about 80 runs and would only leave us 110 runs in arrears, not much different from our first innings deficit in Perth.

“The position we now find ourselves in is fantastic. The pitch looks like remaining good for batting — it is slightly quicker and bouncier than Perth — but we shall stick to our game plan and concentrate on what we can control and let the result look after itself.”

Other players also played their part, such as Paul Harris (39 off 67 balls, four fours), Steyn (76 off 191 balls, nine fours and a six) and a share in a ninth-wicket partnership of 180 with Duminy, and Makhaya Ntini (two not out off 29 balls).

But pride of place has to go to Duminy, not just for the runs he scored, but for the maturity he showed in guiding the tail-enders through the day. He showed unbelievable composure and an ability to read the match situation, knowing when to push ahead and when to soak up the pressure.

He also had the frustration of seeing many of his best strokes restricted to singles (for this reason there were only 18 boundaries struck off the 340 balls he faced) as Ricky Ponting opted to set defensive fields against him and attacked the perceived softer targets.

There were other unsung heroes as well in addition to the ones who scored the runs. AB de Villiers and Mark Boucher, for instance, spent hours before the match throwing short-pitched deliveries at Steyn to help him develop his technique to deal with this style of bowling.

Even allowing for the injury that deprived Australia of the services of Brett Lee (a stress fracture of the ankle is likely to rule him out for a couple of months), a surprising feature was the pace at which South Africa scored their runs.

The Proteas racked up 106 runs for the loss of Harris’s wicket in the first session and another 95 without loss in the second.

The 180-run partnership between Duminy and Steyn was a South African record for the ninth wicket against Australia, beating the 85 that the Pollock brothers recorded at Newlands in 1967.

It was also only 15 runs short of Mark Boucher’s and Pat Symcox’s South African record, which is also the world record.

It was also the first time that South Africa has gone past 400 in successive Test innings in Australia and the total of 459 was South Africa’s second highest at Melbourne, being beaten by the 506 in 1910/11.

There has been much written and said about South Africa’s struggle to dismiss Australia’s lower order and the batting of both side’s bottom four batsmen has become a feature of the series.

Australia 1st innings 394

SM Katich 54, R. Ponting 101, M. Clarke 88 not out, B Haddin 40, D. Steyn 5-87, M Ntini 2-108).

South Africa 1st innings

G. Smith c Haddin b Siddle 62

N. McKenzie b Siddle 0

H. Amla c Symonds b Johnson 19

J. Kallis c Haddin b Hauritz 26

AB de Villiers b Siddle 7

JP Duminy c Siddle b Hauritz 166

M. Boucher c Hussey b Hauritz 3

M. Morkel b Johnson 21

P. Harris c Johnson b Hussey 39

D. Steyn b Siddle 76

M. Ntini not out 2

Extras (b 5, lb 13, nb 15, pen 5) 38

Total (all out) 459

Fall of wickets: 1-1 (McKenzie, 1.4 ov), 2-39 (Amla, 8.3 ov), 3-102 (Kallis, 26.4 ov), 4-126 (Smith, 37.6 ov), 5-132 (de Villiers, 41.5 ov), 6-141 (Boucher, 46.4 ov), 7-184 (Morkel, 57.1 ov), 8-251 (Harris, 77.5 ov), 9-431 (Steyn, 141.3 ov), 10-459 (Duminy, 152.6 ov)

Bowling: Lee 13 2 68 0 (7nb); Siddle 34 9 81 4 (4nb); Johnson 39 6 127 2 (3nb); Hauritz 43 13 98 3 (1nb); Clarke 8 0 26 0; Hussey 5 0 22 1; Symonds 11 3 14 0

Australia 2nd innings

ML Hayden not out 1

SM Katich not out 2

Extras (nb 1) 1

Total (0 wickets; 3 overs) 4

Bowling: Steyn 2 0 4 0 2.00 (1nb); Ntini 1 1 0 0 0.00

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