As Kyle Abbott cleaned up the Australian tail to pocket his 9th wicket of the Test, South Africa completed a resounding victory and left the hosts plunging into despair. The tourists had won by an innings and 80 runs to complete their third successive Test series win in Australia – the previous wins coming on the tours of 2008-09 and 2012-13. While South Africa dominated the hosts, what caught the eye was the manner in which Australia collapsed in heap. Resuming at 121/2, Steve Smith’s men folded in less than 20 overs with a day still to play.
As Smith walked away embarassed and humiliated, a closer look at Australia’s recent outings in Test cricket reveals that collapses such as this are occuring far too often. Here’s a look back at their misadventures with the bat in their five recent Test matches.
2nd Test vs South Africa at Hobart
1st Innings: Australia were left wobbling at 17/5 by the 13th over by an early Vernon Philander onslaught. Steve Smith got a partnership going with Peter Neville but after the wicket-keeper departed in the 21st over, the next four wickets fell for just 54.
2nd Innings: The hosts were sitting safe at 129/2. Abbott then reamoved Usman Khawaja. Thereafter, it was a procession. By the time Australia folded for 161, the collapse read 32/8.
Result: South Africa won by an innings and 80 runs.
1st Test vs South Africa at Perth
In response to South Africa’s 242, Australia posted a confident 158 for the opening pair. Dale Steyn then made his most vital contribution for the tour by sending back Warner who was on the cusp of his ton. What transpired thereafter was anything but pretty for the hosts as they crumbled to 244 all-out.
Result: South Africa won by 177 runs.
1st Test vs Sri Lanka at Pallekele
2nd innings: Chasing a competitive target of 268 runs, Australia wobbled at the top and were reduced to 96/4 before Shaun Marsh and Steve Smith steadied the ship a tad bit. But that was just temporary relief as the next 6 wickets fell for just 22 runs.
Result: Sri Lanka won by 106 runs.
2nd Test vs Sri Lanka at Galle
1st innings: In response to Sri Lanka’s 281, Australia lasted just 33.2 overs and managed a paltry 106.
2nd innings: With 413 runs required for an improbable win, Australia was reduced to 10/3 and then lost seven wickets for 122 runs.
Result: Sri Lanka won by 229 runs
3rd Test vs Sri Lanka at Colombo
2nd innings: Chasing 324 for a face saving win, Australia put up 77 for the first wicket. The inevitable then occured – from 102/3, they surrendered at 160 all-out.
Result: Sri Lanka won by 163 runs.
“Houston, we have a problem”
Clearly, the Aussies have a problem on their hands. For all their high performance academies, their famed bench strength and their Test pedigree, their current side under Steve Smith seem to have forgotten the art of batting. A side that mauled its opposition in the nineties and hunted like a pack of hungry wolves in the 2000s, they now look like a litter of muted puppies.
If the bowling unit is heavily reliant on Mitchell Starc, Steve Smith and David Warner are visibly capitulating under the pressure of having to shoulder the batting department. With South Africa going for the kill, Australia are visibly on the ropes. If there was ever a suitable time for a country to tour Australia, this might just be the season.
As Australia lick their wounds, the Pakistanis are probably salivating while waiting in the wings.
Also read: Who Said What: World reacts as South Africa seal series win over Australia