AB de Villiers looms over second Test

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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34 Have your say

    Australia and South Africa are locked in a gripping match at Port Elizabeth after an attritional day of cricket yesterday left honours roughly even in the second Test.

    On a day marked by several shifts in momentum, South Africa controlled the first two sessions, Australia rebounded ferociously after tea, and then the Proteas finished strongly thanks to a sparkling knock by AB de Villiers (74 not out from 81 balls).

    With reverse swing a major factor and the pitch offering sharp spin, this looks likely to be a low-scoring Test. South Africa finished yesterday on 7/263, a lead of 20 runs, but will know batting last is likely to be very difficult.

    The Proteas must have headed to bed last night ruing a missed opportunity to grind Australia into the ground. At 2/155 just after tea yesterday South Africa looked to be in a dominant position, just 88 runs in arrears. What that scoreline didn’t reflect, however, was the manner in which Australia’s attack blanketed South African batsmen Dean Elgar (57 from 197 balls) and Hashim Amla (56 from 148 balls) during the second session.

    Dean Elgar, South African opening batsman.

    (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

    South Africa did not lose a wicket during that session but found themselves stuck in the mud, scoring just 43 runs from 26 overs in what were the best batting conditions of the match. By the time the final session started the ball had begun to reverse swing and, as a result, Australia’s quicks became a far more challenging proposition.

    It was that sideways movement which did for first Amla and then Elgar, who received wonderful deliveries from Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood respectively in successive overs.

    Those breakthroughs exposed South Africa’s middle order to reverse swing. All-rounder Mitchell Marsh duly exploited this movement to deliver his most valuable Test spell in more than two years. The last time Marsh made a sizeable impact with the ball was in New Zealand in February 2016 when he dismissed stroke-makers Brendon McCullum and Corey Anderson in quick succession as Australia won the first Test.

    On that occasion too it was his ability to get the old ball to swerve through the air that was instrumental. Yesterday Marsh picked a massive moment to get back into the swing of things, trapping LBW both of South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis and batsman Theunis de Bruyn to leave the Proteas in peril at 6/183.

    Faf du Plessis of South Africe

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Not only did Marsh earn generous swing, he also offered the batsmen few scoring opportunities and maintained good pace, nudging the 140-kilometre-per-hour mark at times.

    After a sprightly counter-attack by De Villiers and Quinton de Kock, Australian spinner Nathan Lyon built on the good work of Marsh by castling the Proteas keeper with a stunning delivery. Lyon got the ball to drift in sharply towards De Kock’s pads before it exploded off the pitch and hit the top of off stump.

    Yet neither the tantalising flight of Lyon nor the reverse swing of Australia’s quicks could disturb De Villiers, who again batted serenely. On a pitch on which every other batsman in this Test bar David Warner has laboured, De Villiers made run-scoring appear elementary.

    The Proteas superstar looms large over this Test as South Africa start today with the chance to build a crucial first innings lead.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (34)

    • March 11th 2018 @ 8:06am
      Crickettragic said | March 11th 2018 @ 8:06am | ! Report

      I loved abc grandstands description as ab was batting that he was batting from another planet. There are many batsman in test history who batted at different levels than the rest of their teammates (including these days smith and Kohli) This reminded me though of Lara when he got several of his hundreds against Australia. You kept wishing he’d get out so we could win but part of you wanted him to stay in so you could watch him bat!

      • March 11th 2018 @ 9:34am
        peter chrisp said | March 11th 2018 @ 9:34am | ! Report

        As far as i am concerned he is one of the finest players around

      • March 11th 2018 @ 12:49pm
        Tanmoy Kar said | March 11th 2018 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

        DeVilliers needed to bat quickly otherwise his partners would had fallen in front of him before reaching 243.

        • March 11th 2018 @ 10:30pm
          John Erichsen said | March 11th 2018 @ 10:30pm | ! Report

          Except that Philander scored 36 and Maharaj made 30, in partnerships with de Villiers of 84 and 58 respectively.

    • Roar Guru

      March 11th 2018 @ 8:18am
      Ryan H said | March 11th 2018 @ 8:18am | ! Report

      Perhaps the first innings both here and in Durban show he deserved a little more respect from the opposition. Hard to keep such a phenomenal player down for long

      • March 11th 2018 @ 9:48am
        Don Freo said | March 11th 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

        How would that respect be expressed? What kind of respect?

        • March 11th 2018 @ 10:15am
          Jameswm said | March 11th 2018 @ 10:15am | ! Report

          And how are the Aussies being disrespectful?

          • Roar Guru

            March 11th 2018 @ 10:21am
            Ryan H said | March 11th 2018 @ 10:21am | ! Report

            I can appreciate the state of the match in Durban and how pumped up Australia were but dropping the ball was a little distasteful I thought, but then again, like a lot of things from that match it was probably a storm in a teacup.

            I guess any thoughts of him struggling this series have been forgotten given he has batted on a completley different level to anyone else so far.

            • March 11th 2018 @ 11:15am
              Don Freo said | March 11th 2018 @ 11:15am | ! Report

              Apart from Warner and Marsh.

              • March 12th 2018 @ 5:05pm
                John Erichsen said | March 12th 2018 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

                Damn, you are funny, Don.
                When are you touring?

        • Roar Guru

          March 11th 2018 @ 1:39pm
          Wayne said | March 11th 2018 @ 1:39pm | ! Report


          Press F to pay respects

    • March 11th 2018 @ 8:35am
      Swannies said | March 11th 2018 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      Hopefully South Africa can bat on today then level this one up 1-1.

      • March 11th 2018 @ 1:19pm
        Jameswm said | March 11th 2018 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

        Or in my case hopefully the Aussies dismiss them quickly and score 400

        • March 12th 2018 @ 3:56am
          Broken-hearted Toy said | March 12th 2018 @ 3:56am | ! Report

          You got your wish. Was Marsh ill this morning? It’s a bit odd that Smith didn’t try him again after he’d bowled so well the night before.

          Tremendous stuff from ABdV.

    • March 11th 2018 @ 9:28am
      mattyb said | March 11th 2018 @ 9:28am | ! Report

      Good job Ronan.
      Your writing has gone back to supporting cricket and the onfield happenings as opposed to the ‘New Idea’ approach you were taking in regards to things like selection and making out Australian pitches havnt always been batsman friendly.
      Let’s keep talking cricket to promote our dieing sport.

      • March 11th 2018 @ 9:49am
        Don Freo said | March 11th 2018 @ 9:49am | ! Report

        Oh Matty!!

        What sport is that? No way cricket is dying.

        • March 11th 2018 @ 2:21pm
          train without a terminus said | March 11th 2018 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

          Oh Don, tsk tsk tsk… I thought you’d stopped doing this.

          • March 11th 2018 @ 3:35pm
            Don Freo said | March 11th 2018 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

            Doing what?

            Mattyb and I are Roar mates…usually on the same page.

      • March 11th 2018 @ 9:50am
        Marshall said | March 11th 2018 @ 9:50am | ! Report


    • March 11th 2018 @ 10:17am
      Jameswm said | March 11th 2018 @ 10:17am | ! Report

      AB has only been our run out so far.

      He’s dominating the series the way we thought Smith would.

      Long way to go though.

    • March 11th 2018 @ 11:17am
      Worlds Biggest said | March 11th 2018 @ 11:17am | ! Report

      Game nicely poised at this stage, Aussies need to make inroads into the tail early as AB is in sublime form.

      • Columnist

        March 11th 2018 @ 12:16pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | March 11th 2018 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

        With a hard new ball to smack around, AB could take the game away from Australia in the 1st session today – they need to finish off his partners quickly.

        • March 11th 2018 @ 12:54pm
          bonnie said | March 11th 2018 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

          Ronan I was lucky enough to be at the SCG when South Africa played the West Indies during the World Cup in 2015. AB was motoring along and then exploded against the Windies captain Holder. 30+ runs off one over where AB creamed the ball all over the SCG. Holder came back two overs later to finish the innings and AB destroyed him again. Like myself there was a lot of neutral supporters in the Trumper stand and we were just completely blown away and were disappointed the innings had finished. It was supreme batting by AB. He is unlikely to match that under current conditions but he is very real threat as you point out

        • March 11th 2018 @ 3:37pm
          Don Freo said | March 11th 2018 @ 3:37pm | ! Report

          It’s more likely, Ronan, that he will get out trying. It’s not as if the Aussie attack is sub-standard.

        • Roar Pro

          March 11th 2018 @ 5:51pm
          Kurt S said | March 11th 2018 @ 5:51pm | ! Report

          Philander looked comfortable in those last overs on day 2. AB made it to the non striker’s end on the first ball of the last over. He seemed confident his partner was up to the task of keeping the last 5 balls out.

          I hope SA make a good lead as the pitch looks like it will deteriorate.. it could set up for Australia to create a smallish yet difficult run chase in the 4th innings.

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