Albie Morkel's Flowery Finish for Proteas

Otto SaaymanContributor IJanuary 17, 2009

South Africa's Albie Morkel smashed South Africa to win a game it seemed they were determined to lose.

The Proteas started reasonably wel,l and Dale Steyn dismissed opener Michael Hussey for six in the third over after he faced only nine balls. Shaun Marsh and Ricky Ponting then put pay to SA's hopes of bowling the hosts out cheaply and massed 96 runs during their partnership.

It looked like Australia had some invulnerability shield around them, as one appeal after another was turned down, and South Africa were uncharacteristically poor in the field. Dropped catches and missed run-outs gave Australian batsmen the opportunity to settle and score freely.

Ricky Ponting was eventually caught by Boucher off Botha's bowling for 46 off 71 balls. The onslaught continued with Marsh reaching 79 off 146 and David Hussey with 52 off 63. South Africa induced a mini-collapse toward the end of the Aussie innings and managed to restrict Australia to 271 for eight after 50 overs.

The visitors started badly to say the least. If their fielding was bad, the batting looked catastrophic at first. Australia looked set to hand the Proteas a humiliating defeat.

Although Herchelle Gibbs looked good at the crease after Amla (1 off 4) played on in the second over, Gibbs also removed himself by knocking a Hilfenhaus delivery onto his own stumps.

Jacques Kallis chipped in with a respectable, but slow, 41 off 70. Once again J. P. Duminy stepped up to the plate and with a classy 71 off 131 balls, which included NO boundaries and was valiantly supported by Niel McKenzie, he restored some respectability to the South African cause.

McKenzie and Duminy put pressure on the home side's attack. It was ironic that after his comments about South Africa's captain after the last Twenty/20 match, Ricky Ponting's own captaincy seemed inadequate during this period.

However, unlike Botha, Ponting did fight back and fight back well. South Africa lost 4 wickets with the addition of only eight runs in four overs.

Duminy gifted his wicket to Nathan Bracken, who was rewarded for exceptional control and disciplined bowling. Mark Boucher faced an absolutely ripping delivery from Shaun Tait first up. Yorker-length, swinging in and through the gate.

Vaughn van Jaarsveld was run out after McKenzie dabbed a ball to Ponting and called van Jaarsveld through for a run. The bowler put van Jaarsveld off his run and Ponting hit the mark like the excellent fielder he is. McKenzie was then caught by Ponting off Hilfenhaus.

Australia were firmly on top and Vaughn van Jaarsveld's nightmare debut was set to end in a comprehensive defeat.

It looked like Johan Botha had left the batting power play too late as the overs were running out. Both he and Albie Morkel were new at the crease and the required rate kept steadily climbing with every dot ball.

At last, Albie Morkel showed why he was one of the stars of the IPL and why he was selected for the team to tour Australia. After two disappointing innings in the Twenty/20 matches, he let loose on the Australian attack.

With clever shot selection, something you don't always see from "Master Blaster Morkel," he snatched victory from under the noses of Ponting's team all on his own.

His undefeated 40 runs off 18 balls was interspersed with the huge hits we have come to expect from him. This time the huge hits were perfectly placed around the ground and clinically executed, always through a gap or over the heads of Ponting's carefully placed fielders.

Together with his bowling figures of 2 for 58 off nine overs, he was named man of the match.

Both teams showed some weakness in certain areas. Both teams will have many things to ponder and many areas to improve before Sunday's match in Hobart.

Australia's batting collapse, their struggle to control Duminy and McKenzie and their inability to put the brakes on Morkel will be of great concern.

South Africa will somehow need to fix their fielding and their batting top order. McKenzie has given the selectors a real headache since AB de Villiers is likely to be fit for Sunday's game. The likely casualty might be van Jaarsveld.

South Africa will be pleased with the win, but a dominant performance it was not. Knowing this Australian team, the reprisal will come swift and it will come soon.

If the Proteas can not pull themselves together before Sunday they will be in trouble, since Australia will certainly be champing at the bit to get back at the tourists.

If South Africa can pull off another win, by some miracle, the Australians might have more opposition from their own press and fans during the rest of the series than they have from the touring cricket team.