Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Bowlers may be turned the match so quickly

Few bowlers can change the rhythm of a match so quickly:

Australia lost the Perth Test in Adelaide, where hearts were broken with no time to mend. South Africa knew this. Rarely can a team have approached a clutch match with such confidence. Imagine you are running a marathon. You give it your best shot but each time you look over your shoulder, the enemy is still there. Then, on the home run, the enemy cruises past you. Though Michael Clarke was chosen as Man of the Series for the brilliant back-to-back double-hundreds he scored in the first two Tests, Faf du Plessis was the man over his shoulder, the man who made it possible for South Africa. The prize should have been his.

A strong enough argument is made for longer series between the better-quality and best-matched teams but a short and sharp three-Test bout with two of the games played inside a fortnight provides a compelling narrative. Much was made of the damage done to Peter Siddle on Black Monday at the Adelaide Oval but it was physical and therefore had identity. The real suffering was in the mind, and most particularly the mind of the captain, who surely knew that his own team's strongest race had been run. He also knew that key members of the opposition had air left in their lungs.

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