South Africa Back on Top In Perth
After seemingly being in an imposing position on Day 1, an all toofamiliar batting collapse has left Australia suddenly reeling in the First Test in Perth. Despite starting Day 2 just 139 runs behinds the tourists' moderate 242 with all 10 wickets in hand, Australia were bundled out for just 244, leaving them with just a precarious 2 run lead. What made the collapse all the more galling for the hosts was South Africa lost their main hitman Dale Steyn early on Day 2, who tragically is out for the rest of the series with a broken shoulder. When JP Duminy (34n/o) and Dean Elgar (46n/o) dug in, South Africa finished the day in a commanding position 102 runs ahead with still 8 second innings wickets in hand. Despite Steyn's injury, the tourists were ultra impressive on Day 2 with Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj bowling impressively in tandem as Australia quite shockingly lost 10 for 86 after being 0/160. Philander led the attack in fine style, nagging away on a good length and finding a bit of reverse swing on his way to figures of 4/56. Rabada showed his considerable potential with a near unplayable delivery that rattled the pegs of Usman Khawaja. However probably the big surprise of Day 2 was the controlled and disciplined display of debutant Maharaj on a wicket not known for suiting spin. The left arm orthodox spinner took the key wickets of captain Steve Smith, and the out of sorts Peter Neville on his way to 3/56 from 18 overs. With the loss of Steyn, South Africa are a bowler light for the rest of the game and will want a lead of 300 plus to feel comfortable of pulling off a famous victory.
Selectors Deserve Scorn
I just can't fathom the logic of the selectors in having a "project" or "luxury" all rounder at Number 6 given Australia's recent batting displays. I have nothing against Mitchell Marsh - he is an extremely talented young cricketer. He is far from the only batsman to have fallen cheaply in this game. However his First Class batting average of 29 and Test average of 24 is nowhere near the required standard to be batting 6 for Australia. He came into this match off a double failure with the bat in Perth in the Sheffield Shield game. If Australia's Top 6 bats were regularly rattling up 4/300, and you had Adam Gilchrist at Number 7, I could understand the need or logic to "balance the side" with a bowling all rounder. Occasionally a really strong Australian side of the past decided to play 5 bowlers. However, they had Gilchrist at 6 and you could justify that because the batting strength was never a problem. However Australia are not blessed with the likes of Hayden, Langer, Ponting and Hussey any more. They are a brittle outfit when the tide turns against them. Australia are coming off an embarrassing series clean sweep in Sri Lanka where they failed to pass 200 as a unit in 5 of their 6 innings. So it's time to start paying the number 6 position the respect it deserves by picking a genuine batsman that might be capable of averaging 40 in FC and Test Cricket. There are a host of candidates including Joe Burns, Ed Cowan, Peter Handscombe, Callum Ferguson and Michael Klinger. My choice would be Kurtis Patterson as I think he is the stand out young bat in the country.
Warner Stands Alone
I don't know where Australia would be without David Warner right now as he continued his one-man assault on the South African attack. Warner was cut short of another century in Perth when he edged one to slip off Dale Steyn on 97. Warner stood alone in the recent ODI series against the tourists with over 350 runs and 2 centuries as the rest of his comrades averaged under 30. Warner is such a valuable commodity as an opening batsman, often seizing the momentum as only he knows how. The tourists bowled too short to Warner on Day 1 and Warner took advantage by flailing at a number of balls sending the high and wide over the fielders heads, Warner averages 95 in Perth for good reason. With his lightning hands and bat speed he knows that some go his upper cuts and hooks will sail over the fielders heads. The tourists offered far too much width particular on Day 1 and Warner took calculate gambles crunching a number of imperious drives square of the wicket. Whilst it is a high risk going after short bowling, it is also high reward for a player of Warner's skill. Playing upper cuts and hook shots might not have looked pretty, and might have looked risky to the opponents, however, with the ball carrying harmlessly over the slips, it was a calculated risk. Australia will be under pressure in the 4th innings here in Perth and once again will be relying heavily on Warner to wrestle the momentum back from the tourists.