ICL: Indian Cricket League

Harris hands Australia innings defeat


johnsonMinor lapses in concentration were always going to be crucial on a day like this. For two sessions it was Australia who paid for erring, and in the final it was South Africa - having stuck to their task so well until tea - who relaxed and looked on in bewilderment as centurion Mitchell Johnson and Andrew McDonald thumped a rearguard of dizzying proportions. In the end, however, Australia were unable to overcome a massive deficit and fell to an innings defeat - 11 years and a day to the last time that happened.

With the score reading 231 for 6 at tea, South Africa were in charge but things went pear-shaped after the interval. Truly, final sessions have seldom had so much packed in them. Nineteen fours, six sixes, and a near hat-trick meant there was plenty of entertainment for the crowd as Johnson hit a robust maiden century and McDonald showed what he could deliver with the bat after four limp innings on the tour. But it wasn’t enough to stop South Africa securing victory in the dead rubber, with Paul Harris’ snaring six wickets.

Jacques Kallis left big gaps on the leg side for McDonald - a mid-on, deep square leg and fine leg - to basically invite the shots, but he also picked the gaps on the off side really well. McDonald played some cracking strokes, with fluent drives either side of the pitch - at one point he flayed three successive off-side boundaries off Makhaya Ntini. His maiden half-century was a pleasing effort and the 100-run partnership was up in 14.5 overs

Johnson didn’t waste time, clearing the front leg to clear the infield or cream back-foot drives effortlessly. His off-drives were simply stunning and his half-century took only 51 balls. There was more to come as Johnson extended the party. The sublime - a pull for six off Dale Steyn - was followed by the carefree - a straight six off Harris - and the sixties, seventies and eighties were a blur.

Then a moment of tension. Johnson was left stranded on 96 in Johannesburg and when Australia lost two in two balls, it was déjà vu. Harris snapped the raucous stand when a review for an inside-edge onto McDonald’s pad to silly point was upheld in the bowler’s favour. Next ball Peter Siddle popped a simple catch to bat-pad and South Africa packed seven men around the bat for the hat-trick ball. It wasn’t to be.

With Australia eight down, Johnson declined a single from the first delivery of Steyn’s next over. Taking a deep breath he took guard as Steyn hurried in and smacked the ball over midwicket for six to raise three figures. He finished unbeaten on 123 when the last man Ben Hilfenhaus edged to slip, giving Harris career-best figures.

That exasperating last passage was in stark contrast to proceedings in the morning, when both sides decided to play the waiting game. After the flogging of yesterday afternoon, a battle of attrition played out when just 40 runs were made in two hours. Scoring became immaterial as Simon Katich and Michael Hussey set about trying to eat up the hours, playing the ball straight and with soft hands.

The first run didn’t come for 23 minutes, after which Katich was dropped by Harris at gully without adding a run to his overnight 44. Twenty minutes before lunch an unlikely stroke led to his downfall when he chased a flighted delivery and picked out mid-off. It was soon after the lunch break that Australia had their second breakthrough. The diligent Steyn had worked hard on the approach of Hussey, bowling a good line outside the off stump, and when he brought his line closer he was rewarded as the ball got big and took the shoulder of the blade to a tumbling gully.

While Clarke collected four boundaries in three overs with twinkle-toed efficiency, his new partner never settled. Brad Haddin, a tad squirmy at the crease, chipped a lofted shot to a back-pedalling JP Duminy at mid-on. As the pressure told Clarke opened up with some rasping cuts but his attacking instincts eventually got the better of him. Steyn returned for another super spell close to tea, kept up the desired intensity, pitched the ball up outside off stump, and Clarke dragged it back on.

A stunning rearguard followed, but victory for South Africa was never in doubt. They came back after being behind for two whole Tests and Steyn’s bowling on day one, when he attacked and contained at the same time, was vital in keeping them afloat. The centuries from Ashwell Prince, Kallis and AB de Villiers were crucial components too in this win, which snapped South Africa’s string of five consecutive losses to Australia at home.

Source:Cricket News

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