For a series that has been no stranger to high-octane cricketing action, unwarranted controversies and, sad banishments of top cricketers, the final day of a deciding Test ended in a rather straightforward manner. It was almost as if a topsy-turvy off roading experience ended with a real dampener having hit a smooth albeit predictable surface. On Day 5 of Johannesburg Test, South Africa did the needful, Australia failed to do so and world cricket got another resounding reason as to why the Proteas are, after all, such a strong cricketing force.
But such is the travesty of modern cricket that at the back of a single controversy, fortunes change such suddenly that what eventually lies at the end of the tunnel is a pure spiral downfall. How else could the series be described particularly from an Australian perspective? All though, it was glad and heartening to hear AB De Villiers dub the series as the, “Best I’ve ever played or been a part of.”
Not always do we find great men engaging in emotive exchanges, do we?
All that said, the final deciding Johannesburg Test will always be remembered for being a fitting finale for one of the game’s underrated greats- Morne Morkel- who emphatically bowed out like a warrior that he’s so often been. Let’s not forget that in scalping a vital 2-28 in his final bowling effort and scalping 3 from his final game, he ended up on the winning side.
Big Vernon brings curtains on spineless Aussies
On Day 5 of the Johannesburg Test, the morning session for Australia should have ideally been a case of absolute dogged determination and full application of their repertoire. There are times when cricketing battles are often won in the mind and not exactly on the field. But that wasn’t to be for Australia as resuming from 88-3 they were bundled out for 119, perhaps their worst Test crash in nearly half a decade or so.
But then it could be said that the big ‘Vern’ Vernon Philander had other plans in mind. He just didn’t allow the Australian batsmen to adjust to his fiery line and length and the away movement that he generated of the seam handicapped the Australian middle and lower order.
The scenes were sparkling from a Proteas point of view but only fetching a dampener of sorts for the Australians.
What Joe Burns depicted in his patient, watchful 42 on day 4 failed to serve as the fitting precedent as Marsh brothers failed once again, Shaun failing to live up to his potential as a big match Test player. He offered catching practice to Bavuma on a tight, straightened delivery off Philander behind the wickets. A few balls later, his younger brother would follow him in the dugout, finding the outside edge of his bat befriending De Kock behind the stumps for a duck.
A lesson in perspective from gutted Aussie fans?
“Do not count on Marsh brothers to bail you out.” Day 5 of Johannesburg Test revealed what the talented duo are capable of with Shaun contributing 23 while Mitch making just 4. This was at a time where Australia would’ve wanted their very best having made their mark in the Ashes.
The last two wickets, Sayers and Lyon also went to Philander’s exuberance but not before the off spinner demonstrated a couple of beautifully timed strokes square on the off side.
All said and done, a Test of vital individual performances- Philander’s 6-for in the final innings, Morne’s 3 wickets in his final outing and an outstanding bit of batting by Faf in compiling his 8th Test hundred and Bavum’s fitting 95, a reply to his doubters firmly cemented South Africa among the top sides in the 5-day contest.