Saturday, February 2, 2013

Analysis of the 2nd Day, South Africa versus Pakistan Test Series

Stumps Day 2: 

South Africa 253 and 207 for 3 (de Villers 63*, Amla 50*) lead Pakistan 49 (Steyn 6-8, Kallis 2-11) by 411 runs

After the first Day, I was struggling to balance out and judge the battle between bat and ball with the state of the pitch and its major effect on the events that transpired or subsequent neutral status clouding my senses. As the Teams walked off after an action packed Day two, I was convinced that the pitch was an irrelevant factor in this match with it providing an equal playing field for all and crucially sorting the wheat from the chaff. No impostors in Whites would be allowed to survive on this Test canvas.

People will find this an almost bizarrely outrageous judgement on the pitch in the wake of Pakistan being dismissed for 49. Its lowest Test score ever in its proud Test history. My basis of these thoughts is it was one of those days that was dominated by a genius in Dale Steyn, a bowler that when all is said and done could be regarded as the best fast bowler ever. His mastery, that saw the ball act like a obedient dog presented the Pakistani batsmen with all sorts of challenges that rendered them helpless. A picture always tells a thousand words and to put this in perfect context think of Shane Warne's ball of the Century to Mike Gatting, and then think of Gatting's bemused and bewildered look as he walked off....

That look by Gatting epitomised how the Pakistani batsmen would have felt in the face of such transcendent genius.

I could write a book on how amazing Steyn was, but it would pay a disservice to the calibre of the South African bowling unit as a collective. Truth be told, Vernon Philander was as responsible for Steyn buzz saw like performance with him playing that defensive foil perfectly- so Steyn could attack. As onlookers, we always talk about partnerships in batting, but they are as crucial in bowling with this duo being the very best from a skill and balance point of view. They strangled the Life out of the batsmen and destroyed them in the mind robbing them of any game plan to withstand the onslaught.

Excuses for the performance, such as the Pakistani's being so foreign to the conditions, and not arriving early enough to acclimatise have merit. But the fact of the matter was that the standard of the bowling performance was that astounding that it probably would have pulled the pants down of the 1948 Bradman Invincibles!

Strangely in a 3 Test series where momentum is so crucial South Africa did not take up the opportunity to make Pakistan follow on and endeavour to humiliate them again. That would have had a profound effect on the series. Instead they batted again, which is the safety first approach that will more than likely not impact on their near certain victory, but it will give Pakistan another chance to bat with their minds a little clearer. 

A fighting 2nd innings by Pakistan will not save this match, but will be a fillip for them as the series goes forward in a vain attempt to get back in to it.

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