Sydney: As future generations study Australia’s scorecard in the second innings of the Cape Town Test against South Africa, they will wonder what happened when 12 wickets fell for 60 runs in a session and the visitors came within a whisker of scoring the lowest total recorded in 2016 Tests, noted cricket columnist Peter Roebuck has said.
“They will ask what demons came over the track? What devils came into the bowling? What dark forces played tricks on the batsmen? They will seek answers from witnesses themselves trying to come to terms with the events, trying to explain the inexplicable,” Roebuck wrote in his syndicated column for the Sydney Morning Herald.
“A hundred years ago it was not unknown for a new cricket nation to be dismissed for scores in the 30s or 40s. The pitches were rough and sometimes wet, the players were inexperienced and often out of their depth, the bats were thin and the gloves were spiky.”
“Nowadays, the players are professionals, fit, seasoned, trained, protected and surrounded by advisers. And the pitches are the same. It is just about conceivable that they might fall for 80 or 90, as did the host in its first innings. But 9-21?” he added.
He further said that a single fact confronts the Australians, shames them, and condemns them for incompetence and lack of grit.
“No one could get Peter Siddle out. Yes, he did spoon a catch to cover in the first innings, but by then his work was done. Otherwise he held firm. Altogether he faced 70 mostly untroubled balls. Apart from Michael Clarke and Shaun Marsh in the first innings, none of the other Australians have faced more than 54 balls in this contest,” he added.
Roebuck, however, admitted that the South Africans deserve credit for producing one of the most extraordinary rallies the game has known.
“If nothing else it tells of a sturdy spirit. Between innings the cause seemed lost. Skittled for 96, they were facing a devastating defeat. Indeed, they only avoided the follow-on thanks to an improbable last-wicket stand. Even so they fell 188 runs adrift. It did not bode well,” he said.
“Ten overs later they were well-placed to win the match. By then Australia was in tatters. If the Proteas deserve praise, the Australians cannot escape censure,” he added.