Brittle South Africa in trouble against Australia on grassy Gabba pitch

South Africa picked two wickets in the last six balls of the play after they were bowled out for just 152 at the Gabba in Brisbane, as the two sides started the three-Test series on Saturday.

Steve Smith was one of the prized scalps. Anrich Nortje bowled him through the gate as the star Australian batman couldn’t deal with in swinging delivery.

And just five balls and one run later, Scott Boland, the night watchman, was caught behind by Kale Verreynne on bowling of Kagiso Rabada.  

However, Travis Head was still at crease after a brisk 77-ball innings in which he has so far managed 78 runs with 13 fours and one six.

With Australia at 145 for 5 and Head still batting while Cameron Green is next to come, the chances are that they will be able to get a sizeable lead in the first innings to press South Africa hard in their second innings.

The current equation certainly gives them an edge, except any collapse on Sunday morning and strong response with the bat by the likes of South African captain Dean Edger as the batting lineup of the tourists can best be described as brittle.  

The start of the Australian innings wasn’t good as David Warner was caught brilliantly by Khaya Zondo on the very first ball. It was a brute short ball by Rabada as Warner jumped in an attempt to ride it but ended up giving the catch.

And in the ninth over, Marnus Labuschagne fell after managing just 12 runs when the team total was 18. Marco Jansen had bowled a fuller delivery on fourth stump which threatened to shape back, forcing Labuschagne to play. However, it went straight on with the left arm angle, caught the edge and carried easily to Elgar in the slips, leaving Australia on 18 for 2.

And when the hosts reached 27, it was Nortje who bowled a short ball, squaring up Usman Khawaja, who edged the ball to the third slip where Harmer took the catch while diving to his left. Khawaja could only score 11.

But with the arrival of Head on the crease, Australia opted for a counterattack and pushed the score to 144 in the next 23 overs thanks to a 117-run fourth wicket stand that also involved Smith.

Earlier, Pat Cummins won the toss and opted to bowl on a green surface at the Gabba. His decision paid off as they reduced the South Africans to meagre 152. Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon took three wickets each with two each for Cummins and Boland.

The scoreboard at the end of the day was a more accurate reflection of the difference between the two sides than the current World Test Championship table. While Australia’s performance, especially in the field, underlined their authority at the top of the table, South Africa’s batting belied their second place and revealed a familiar set of concerns in their line-up.

Only Dean Elgar and Temba Bavuma have previous Test experience in Australia and neither has scored a century in this cycle of the WTC. Two others, Sarel Erwee and Verreynne, have hundreds in this edition of the WTC but the overall lack of confidence and application is glaring even against an Australia attack that was not at its best.   

The only worthwhile contribution was for the fifth stand between Bavuma and Verreynne who scored 38 and 64 respectively. They had come together when South Africa were in deep trouble at 27 for 4. They were separated at 125 98 runs later when Starc bowled Bavuma with an inside edge. And just 27 runs later, they were all out for 152 in 48.2 overs.  

The story was filed by the News Desk. The Desk can be reached at info@thecorrespondent.com.pk.

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