Pakistan struggling against the odds, and Mark Boucher’s record

Pakistan have their work cut out to get something out of the First Test against South Africa. The Proteas scored 450, on the back of a big hundred by Jacques Kallis, who certainly would have had a point to prove to the selectors who left him out of the Twenty20 team. Then the rather unlikely sight of a South African spinner on top, Paul Harris taking 5 for 73. That left Pakistan all out for 291, and it could have been even less if it wasn’t for some stout lower order batting. Now South Africa in their second dig are 76 for 3, and the lead is already beyond 200. (scorecard)

The other notable feat of the Test is that South Africa’s keeper, Mark Boucher, has passed Ian Healy’s record for the most dismissals in Tests. He’s a worthy holder of the record, a fine gloveman who has mastered his craft. The one disappointment in his career would have to be that South Africa have not really produced a spin bowler worthy of his talents. On the rare occasion  that I’ve seen him up to the stumps, he’s certainly looked the goods though and it is notable that in Pakistan’s innings he did get two stumpings. There’s nothing wrong with his abilities at what is the ultimate test of a keeper’s skills. (stats)

South Africa smash and grab

Three days ago they were pedestrian, and that’s a compliment. Today South Africa were devastating, inflicting a forth successive loss and certain elimination to hosts West Indies (there’s actually still a mathematical chance). The sudden turnaround is sure to renew the hopes of the Proteas while West Indies’ imminent exit will surely empty a couple more seats for the remaining games. I’m suspicious that many weren’t watching anyway.

AB de Villiers smashed his maiden one-day century leaving the field with cramps, dehydration, heat exhaustion and some fond memories. Boucher bashed the third fastest fifty (at least this one came against respectable..er opposition) in World Cup history and Gibbs recovered from his calf strain to bash another fifty of his own. Even Kallis looked like a one-day player.

Thoughts? I’m not going to bed anytime soon. It’s still daylight here.

Scorecard here and Bulletin here.

UPDATE South Africa v Australia, 5th ODI, Johannesburg

About an hour ago, me and my colleage were screaming at the TV while watching South Africa attempt to reach 435. The commentators – Tony Greig and a South African, Barry Richards I think – were getting far too excited and claiming the hosts were going for the win. What tosh.

I’m slowly reaching for my hat which I might have to start eating, as we’re witnessing something rather extraordinary.

Oh bugger, the curse of the blogger. Graeme Smith is out (90 off 55!) and Mike Hussey’s celebration after taking the catch in the deep perhaps said it all: Australia are relieved. I think they felt the game was slipping away from them…

What an incredible day’s cricket it’s been

Update

Gibbs reaches incredible hundred. Nathan Bracken DROPS HIM at mid-off! What the hell is going on? South Africa 247 for 2, needing 188 from 23 overs

14.34 GMT

Gibbs 150 from 100 balls. 164 needed from 21. Rate under 8 for the first time. Pictures I’m upping are here

14.48

Gibbs falls for 175 from 111. De Villiers also out. Kallis and Boucher now in. 136 from 18.1 overs.

15.48

30 from 18 needed, ANOTHER FOUR, Boucher’s doing it for South Africa. And Mick Lewis brings up his hundred too!

15.51

It’s gotta be SA now. 17 from 13

15.52

Four from Roger Telemarketing! (Telemachus) 13 from 12! Mick Lewis has the most expensive bowling stats, ever.

15.53

Telemachus caught, brilliantly, by Hussey, diving forward at mid-off! 12 from 10 with two wickets remaining. Bloody hell. Andrew Hall gets a standing ovation for walking onto the ground.

15.58

7 from 6

16.00

Lee struck on foot, saved four, ouch. 6 from 5

16.02

Hall smashes Lee through midwicket for FOUR! Brilliant shot.

16.04

Hall caught! OUT GONE! 2 from 3 needed, ONE WICKET LEFT

16.05

Ntini screams, gets a single, South Africa cannot lose. 1 from 2. Australia cannot, obviously, win it. This is bloody incredible

16.06

Boucher wins it with a slog over mid-on to record the best one-day victory ever. In the greatest one-day match, probably. Speechless.

Volkswagon? He’s fallen off some wagon…

Cricinfo profile Johan van der Wath. He’s a useful talent, although not a real menace. With Ntini and Kallis out of the picture, he does a job for his team.

But man, I’ve never seen such an ill-looking cricketer. He looks like he’s got a full-time hangover. Hell, even I don’t look like that all the time. Just on weekends!

Test Cricket today. Hurray!

Tests are the best!

Australia take on South Africa in the First Test at Perth. South African captain Graeme Smith is ‘braced for bullies‘ and given that his side lost to a weak West Australian state side by an innings, the Australian urge to kick sand in South African faces is strong.

A personal confession, here. I loathe South African cricket, which has done nothing but bombastic boasting, boring and unadventurous captains and hilarious World Cup chokes since they were re-admitted in 1992. The last two times Australia toured the place, we heard a great deal in the South African press about how they were going to stuff us, and Australia responded by crushing them by an innings in the First Test. I suppose I owe it to my readers that I can’t be entirely objective about South Africans, and should bear that in mind when they read my stuff.

South Africans must be pretty anxious about the crowd because Andre Nel says that they aren’t worried about being abused by the crowds. If you weren’t worried about it, why would you talk about it? It is not like South African crowds are prim and proper-Johannesburg is not known as ‘the Bullring’ for nothing.

Australia have included Nathan Bracken in the lineup, instead of Stuart MacGill, and South Africa are likely to be missing Jacques Kallis. He is one of the few South Africans with a proven record against Australia so they will miss him.

Australia have never lost a series to South Africa since readmission, and have not lost a series at home since 1992-93. I do not think South Africa have the bowling attack to change those facts. Also, Smith does not strike me as the sort of cool figure that can lead his side to an upset victory. But it’s Test cricket so hurray!

Kallis goes to 100. But what are SA’s tactics?

This really is becoming a stalemate. England are bowling on a pitch flatter than an ironing board and have been forced to use defensive tactics to stem the run-rate. Which they’ve succeeded in doing. But SA have made no attempt to abate England’s tactics. SA are scoring at under 3/over so far for their entire innings – which, 20 years ago, would have been fairly motoring. My problem with their lack of intention and risk is they’re losing time in the match. It’s coming up to Tea on the 2nd day, and they’ve only added about 120 runs in 2 sessions.

The pitch has no demons or gremlins in it – it’s tailor made for Kallis to go berserk and get SA up to 500. He’s a fine player with a wonderful record, but his lack of aggression and risk-taking is perhaps evident of his lack of a double-hundred in Tests. He should have scored at least one by now.

Gibbs and Kallis depart

The last over before lunch, Harmison grabbed Kallis – an excellent, low catch by ‘keeper Jones and England were clearly overjoyed. It had been quite even up until then when Rudolf and Gibbs had camped in for a long innings. But – Harmison also got Gibbs out, caught very well by Giles in one of 2 wide gullies.

Long way to go, but SA’s chances of victory are now pretty distant with the 2 big guns gone.

Scorecard

Jacques Kallis “wall-like”

Well, South Africa have won both sessions today. England did well in the first one of today (Day 2) but really, Kallis has played a great innings. But, by Christ is he boring to watch? He’s not as attacking as he could be – SA have a healthy lead, yet they’re still tootling along at about 2.5/over. They don’t tend to play for the win – which I can’t really understand. You don’t win series by trying to save a match.

Kallis hits 17th century against India

An interesting article at Cricinfo on Kallis’ hundred against India. In particular:

But before this tour something happened to change all that. Ray Jennings asked the team to talk about how they perceived each other, what they really thought, not just a facade. One of the newest members of the squad said of Kallis: “He’s a great player who doesn’t want to share his knowledge.” Kallis was stung: that just wasn’t the way it was at all.

A revealing insight into the mindset of cricketers and batsmen – and, also, perhaps, the pressure of sport and the pressure players put themselves under. Kallis is a wonderful player – over 6000 runs at nearly 54 is fine – but clearly his 16 previous centuries were immensely personal to him. He’s always struck me as a very intelligent, well-mannered, non-aggressive cricketer and someone who’d be first to help others (especially younger batsmen).

On a similar note, I think I’ll draw up a list of Cricket’s Failure’s – insanely talented batsmen who couldn’t cut it at the top level. (Why am I suddenly thinking Hick, Ramprakash, Kambli [Vinod?], Blewett…..)

PS: But why the slow run-rate (SA v India)?