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Ken Borland

Head punishment leaves SA bowlers looking like battered old bakkies 0

Posted on May 31, 2023 by Ken

South Africa’s attack went from being a sleek, powerful sports car to a battered old bakkie in the space of an hour as Travis Head bashed a punishing unbeaten half-century to put Australia on the brink of seizing the lead after the first day of the first Test at the Gabba in Brisbane on Saturday.

Replying to South Africa’s mediocre 152 all out, Australia reached stumps on 145 for five, with Head producing a great knock of 78 not out off just 77 balls.

The Proteas made a great start in the field as Kagiso Rabada delivered a pinpoint short ball to David Warner first up, the left-hander trying to fend the ball away, but Khaya Zondo, leaping up at short-leg, taking a miraculous one-handed catch.

Left-arm quick Marco Jansen then struck with his first ball as he had Marnus Labuschagne (11) caught in the slips, and in the next over, Anrich Nortje removed Usman Khawaja, also for 11, 12th man Simon Harmer taking a sharp catch in the slips.

Australia were 27 for three and the Proteas pace attack was looking like a mean machine. Steven Smith and Head then dug in initially, but once they had doubled the score, they shifted gears. Smith pulled and drove Nortje for boundaries in the 18th over, and Head collected a couple of fours in the next over, as spinner Keshav Maharaj was introduced to the attack.

The Proteas began losing their lines and lengths and boundary balls were regularly on offer, with Head and Smith seizing their opportunities to score with alacrity. In the six overs from the 18th to the 23rd, 58 runs were hammered as the momentum was emphatically shifted.

South Africa did regain their composure at the end of the day though, as Nortje produced a superb delivery to rip through Smith’s gate and bowl him for 36, while Rabada nipped the ball away from nightwatchman Scott Boland (1) to have him caught behind with what became the last ball of the day.

The Proteas batting continues to confound even the most expert panel of batting coaches as they were dismissed in just 48.2 overs before tea, crumbling from 125 for four to 152 all out.

Sent in to bat on a pitch that was just a slightly paler shade of green than the outfield, South Africa’s top-order was blasted out with just 27 runs on the board. Captain Dean Elgar (3) and Rassie van der Dussen (5) were both caught behind, off Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins (12.2-3-35-2) respectively, before Boland (11-2-28-2) took two wickets in his second over, having Sarel Erwee well-caught by Cameron Green in the gully for 10 and then trapping Zondo lbw for a two-ball duck.

But Temba Bavuma and Kyle Verreynne are probably two of the most determined batsmen in the Proteas line-up and they did invaluable repair work with a fifth-wicket stand of 98.

Verreynne counter-attacked and belted eight fours and a six in his 64, while Bavuma was typically defiant in putting up 38 vital runs.

Left-arm paceman Starc (14-1-41-3) made the breakthrough when he swung the ball back into Bavuma from over the wicket, the batsman inside-edging into his stumps.

Jansen (2) then tried to hammer off-spinner Nathan Lyon (8-2-14-3) out of the ground but could only sky a catch, leaving the bowlers exposed and they were quickly removed by the Australians.

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