The men’s international season is now well and truly underway, brightening up some bleak English winter mornings for me. Here’s five talking points from the first and second ODIs between Australia and India.
Day 2 was a day full of promise for the Australians, after a Day 1 dominated by the hosts, many arriving at the WACA on Friday would’ve expected more of the same.
Four hours later a train wreck had appeared.
From none for 158 to 244 all out with a two-run lead, words cannot describe the ineptitude seen in the Australian innings.
South Africa, despite the loss of star spearhead Dale Steyn, conjured an almighty effort to fightback when the game seemed to slipping away. Having done away with bowling half-trackers in favour of pitching the ball up and allowing for a batsmen’s mistake or slight seam movement, the bowling trio of Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Keshav Maharaj reaped the rewards.
Dave Warner was scintillating for his 97, combining brute force with exquisite placement as he so often does, it seemed like Warner was destined for another WACA ton until the commentator curse struck via Mark Nicholas along with a very sharp catch by Hashim Amla and quality bowling from Dale Steyn.
Shaun Marsh battled for his 63 and appeared to have hit his straps, easily finding the boundary with an array of front foot drives and late cuts which were very easy on the eye, until a tidy piece of bowling by Vernon Philander, seemingly relishing the extra movement, saw him dismissed leg-before wicket.
Apart from Steve Smith and Peter Nevill, very few Australian batsmen could honestly be disappointed in their dismissal, with an assortment of lazy shots and poor decision making.
Usman Khawaja was bowled by an absolute gem from rising star Kagiso Rabada in what is surely the ball of the series. It demonstrated the very best of Rabada’s talents, lightning fast speed with savage inswing to produce a ball which would trouble any batsman in world cricket.
If you believe the Channel Nine commentary team, the comeback was inevitable, but this was a new South Africa reminiscent of the one which held the No.1 Test ranking not so long ago. It was ready to fight and scrap and deal out some serious pain.
Mitch Marsh failed again but the manner of his dismissal, showed a batsman out of his depth, a sign that surely Australia must consider playing a specialist batsman or bowler in the upcoming Tests.
South Africa bought a largely unknown attack to Australian shores this summer by Rabada is ready to lead, Vernon Philander is skilful when movement is apparent as shown by his exceptional four wickets and Keshav Maharaj started poorly but lifted and proved he is more than a handful, using incredible guile and flight to nab three wickets.
The final session felt almost tedious after such an action-packed day but with South Africa losing two wickets, Hashim Amla and the out-of-touch Stephen Cook, the game remains in the evenly poised with everything in the balance come the morning of day 3 despite the tourists boasting a lead of 102.
The game that looked as good as gone is now well and truly alive. More of the same please.