First Test reaction
How did Australia lose the unlosable?
Soon after drinks in the morning session of day two, Australia was cruising at 0/158 in reply to South Africa’s 242.
The Aussies were on track to build a significant first innings lead and open the summer with a comfortable win inside four days. Dale Steyn, the best pace bowler since Glenn McGrath, then got rid of David Warner for 97 and triggered an almighty collapse.
Instead of a 100-150 run lead, it was a meagre two run advantage. If day two was the day the Proteas launched a stirring comeback, then day three is when they really ran away and put themselves in the box seat.
But when you think that South Africa were without their superstar batsmen AB de Villiers through injury, Steyn re-injured his right shoulder soon after taking that Warner wicket and is out for the rest of the series and also star batsman Hashim Amla was dismissed for a duck and 1; the obvious question is how the hell did Australia manage to find a way to lose?
It is flabbergasting and the result also ended Australia’s proud run of starting the home summer unbeaten since 1988. What makes it even more ironic is that Steyn’s injury was the turning point, but instead of South Africa unravelling, it was Australia. Instead of crumbling and dropping their shoulders, South Africa galvanised.
JP Duminy and Dean Elgar both hit the fifth centuries of their up and down Test careers to set Australia a world record run chase of 539.
Enter Kagiso Rabada! The 21 year old fitted into Test cricket like a duck to water. He stepped up with maturity beyond his years to lead the attack in just his ninth match, taking 5/92 to earn man of the match honours. For a moment there, you forgot Steyn was even absent.
The big question now is can Australia rebound when the second Test starts in Hobart on Saturday. Peter Siddle has already been ruled out with a back injury so Joe Mennie is likely to debut but Jackson Bird has also been called up as cover. Opener Shaun Marsh broke his finger and will also miss out, paving the way for Joe Burns to play his 13th Test.
As for Steyn, he’ll fly back home but South Africa have the luxury to pick between two proficient bowlers, Kyle Abbott and Morne Morkel, to fill the void.