An afternoon in Port Elizabeth: a thorough retelling of an epic destruction

The first ball after tea Alex Doolan edged Vernon Philander behind to AB de Villiers. It could be out, it should be out, but the cameras say it could have bounced. Then Doolan edges to slip, and it doesn’t carry either. Doolan looks like a walking knicker. Finally Morne Morkel gets an edge from him that carries.

Shaun Marsh comes and goes, for a pair. He has now scored less than four in more than half his Test innings. On other days, this would be talked about much.

Michael Clarke has not made runs since Adelaide. He edges first ball. It doesn’t carry. You have to really earn a caught behind the wicket right now. Steyn’s first over after tea. He looks like that Dale Steyn. Angry and hungry. Clarke just guides one to slip after being worked over by reverse swing. Smith barely arrives at the crease and is out.

At 126 without loss it sounded like de Villiers shouting “150 for 4 here”. De Villiers was wrong, it was 156 for 4. With four wickets down, you could smell the fifth day fading.

South Africa were now throwing it all on the line, Australia’s saviour in the Ashes was allowed on strike with fielders on the boundary for Chris Rogers. Oh, Rogers, he had barely scored. He had barely looked like going out. He was just there.

Steyn could virtually taste Brad Haddin’s wicket. After four balls of strike, he removed his middle stump with a ball Haddin knew where it would pitch; with a ball Haddin knew how it would swing; with a ball that Haddin could have predicted an hour before it happened. Haddin still lost his middle stump.

Mitch came out with his massive batting average against South Africa. Mitch missed a short swinging delivery from Steyn by roughly 4.7 kilometres. Then he had a ball pole vault out of the footmarks and take the shoulder of the bat. Mitch was being attacked by ground and foot.

Smith was now so sure this was the last day he was throwing reviews away. The fifth day was dead to everyone.

Johnson stays out of the line to one from Philander. He tricks Richard Illingworth, but South Africa review anyway; damn you day five. They are right. Johnson is out.

South Africa have given up on bowling out Rogers. So Steyn bowls wide to Rogers to keep him off strike. It is called a wide. Morkel hits something down the legside so South Africa throw another review at it: not out. The umpires are staying pretty sharp despite the yelling and craziness. The clouds are now encroaching on the pitch like a Fritz Lang baddie.

How many wickets down do you need to be to enforce the extra half an hour? Everyone has a different answer. It’s not a real thing. It could be seven, maybe its eight. But Ryan Harris and Rogers look settled as the minutes creep up to 1759, one minute from the normal close.

Morkel is down the leg side again, he seems to be working to some sort of leg-side-or-be-damned plan. This time Rogers has wood on it, de Villiers has dived like a superhero. But did it carry? South Africa think yes. Has it bounced, maybe, yes, maybe no. The sun seems to be on every TV screen in the ground, the glare makes people doubt themselves. While it is all happening, it is beyond six. It’s either bounced or been foreshortened. Will that be it?

Aleem Dar decides it is not out. But the umpires on the field decide that the extra half an hour can be called. Rogers is livid, he complains uselessly. He deserves it to be the close of play. Australia and South Africa deserve to have an extra half hour.

Steyn is bowling to Harris, and there is another edge down the leg side that is almost caught. Then Harris hits the ball into the ground, it bounces high in the air (higher than any delivery in the match), it is not going near the stumps, but he hits it away, and does it very badly. It hits the back of his bat and almost goes onto the stumps.

Two balls later Steyn hits Harris high and leg side. South Africa are convinced it is out. Kumar Dharmasena takes forever to compute, then he gives it out. Harris reviews. It is still out. Only just. Harris keeps looking at Dharmasena as he walks off.

Rogers faces a full over from JP Duminy. Perhaps he’s bowling to get through the over quickly to allow Steyn a go at Peter Siddle. He cannot get off strike. The last ball he tries to take a run, but decides only a run out would happen. So he says no. The sun goes behind a cloud. It suddenly gets very dark.

Siddle gets stuck with Steyn. An inside edge happens, but safely. Then Siddle hits out on the off side, he takes the single, as Duminy stops it by flopping on the ball with his ribs. He can barely breathe. The phsyio comes out, but there is no time, he is sent back. The light metre comes out, and South Africa can’t knock that back. Duminy is in massive pain. He keeps running into the wrong position because he can’t listen to anyone through the pain. He’s taking up seconds and light.

Steyn gets angry and smashes Rogers in the back of the helmet and it goes for four leg byes. He wants Rogers on strike so Philander can bowl to Siddle. He wins. Steyn is down on his haunches at square leg after his last couple of bouncers, barely breathing. He has bowled nine overs, he looks like he has bowled a hundred. You just know he will try bowl another.

Siddle handles Philander very well. Very, very well. It now looks like Steyn or nothing.

Rogers faces Duminy, who has done well to recover, but both teams are playing like tomorrow will not happen. Rogers pushes the ball wide of mid-off, to the right of Alviro Petersen, who earlier in the session was fielding like he was in a coma. Now he is awake, picks it up, flicks it and hits the stumps. It looks out. South Africa are sure it is. The first replays show Rogers well short when the ball hits the stump. South Africa get the thumbs up and celebrate. But for drama, the bail takes a year to come off. Dar has noticed this. It takes maybe two years for the bail to come off. And in that time, maybe Rogers is in. There are about 27 replays. Dar has seen enough, he gives it out.

Rogers, who played with ease alongside David Warner, and then hung on to the wreckage of the Australian order to stay afloat has run himself out in the dark, in the final minutes. Steyn, as buggered as he is, runs over and shakes his hand. So does Smith.

It is Siddle and Nathan Lyon, better than most Nos. 10 and 11. They can bat. They are okay. They need to face less than two overs. It is now darker than before. Siddle does well against Duminy to end the over. He even pushes into the covers for a two.

At the other end Steyn takes off his hat, goes to the end of his mark. He will give it one more over. But Illingworth and Dharmasena are alternating on who they help. They decide it is too dark. Instead of facing Steyn, Lyon will face Dean Elgar. The man who called himself a pie chucker at the end of the first day. Left-arm orthodox. The very opposite of Steyn in practically every way.

The first ball is an actual pie, and Lyon had enough time to eat it. The second ball is better, but Lyon plays it well. The third is a quicker ball, it’s wide and full and Lyon just leaves. The fourth, the fourth.

It is short of a length on the stumps, it spins, it holds up, Lyon is hit on the pad. Lyon is OUT. SOUTH AFRICA WIN. DEAN ELGAR HAS TAKEN A WICKET.

Lyon stands there as Elgar mounts his team-mates, they laugh, they smile, Lyon stares. Unimportant replay show a possible edge and problems with height.

Thirty minutes later, Lyon is in the changing room, still staring, still unable to change anything.

South Africa have won. Dean Elgar has taken the wicket.

In 36.4 overs, South Africa have taken nine wickets. They have beaten Australia. They have beaten the apocalyptic rain. And they have made Lyon stare.

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5 thoughts on “An afternoon in Port Elizabeth: a thorough retelling of an epic destruction

  1. Tiratu says:

    Brilliant timeline of the massacre, JRod. Almost as intense as watching it live, and without a single exclamation mark in sight.

  2. viewsplash says:

    What an amazing destruction after Warners initial Morkel demolition! What a see-saw battle!

  3. fromtheempire says:

    The Evil Empire strikes back. The disciples of Boof known throughout the empire as Boof Heads have got there butt heads slapped by Darth Biff and the Angry One.
    How can the supreme leader of Boofology get it so wrong and lead the chosen ones into the clutches of Darth Biff. Will the cult of the Boof survive this?
    Cape Town will be the final showdown between the Boof Heads and the Evil Empire. Will the Angry One prevail or will the walking moustache (aka Porno Star) lead the Boof Heads to the holy grail?

  4. Steve says:

    as well as Rogers played, he did have some of the Warner fairy dust rub off him. Gave quite a few chances away, definitely an LBW off elgar that hawkeye had hitting/umpire’s call, and the toe edge off steyn before tea that wasn’t reviewed. So bizarrely appropriate that he ran himself out in the end.

  5. Ben Flett says:

    Best moments from this match:
    Double middle stump Haddin slaying from Steyn
    The mysterious ninth wicket third umpire call
    Hashim’s sexy fielding, even better than his ton
    And… The purple onesies… Everyone should be forced to dress like this in dour Abu Dhabi tests

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