The oft repeated saying that Test cricket is a great leveler may not see a better illustration than the ongoing Perth Test between Australia and South Africa. Upon ending the opening day at 105/0 with only 137 runs separating them from their opposition’s first-innings total, the hosts saw the rug pulled under their feet after suffering a major middle-order meltdown. The Proteas finished the second day having taken a lead of 102 runs with still eight wickets intact. Understandably, opener David Warner was miffed about the turnaround.
At the end of day press conference, the outspoken 30-year old expressed his concern regarding Australia’s recent trend of letting slip the advantage by collapsing in a heap at inopportune times.
Warner fumed, “I feel there has been a trend in the last 12-18 months following on from what happened in England (2015 Ashes). Its tough to see as an opening batter when you get off to those starts, to see it fall away is hard to watch from the change rooms. It is something we have to work hard on need to knuckle down as a batting unit and try to build partnerships. We always talk about someone going on and scoring hundreds from the top four but it is on everyone in the middle order to accept responsibility.”
The pugnacious left-hander had flayed at the South African bowlers to propel Australia to a dominant position at 158/0. With a more sedate Shaun Marsh for company, he smashed his way to a brutal 100-ball 97 before Dale Steyn coerced him to a half-hearted nudge and the accompanying outside edge. From then on, the wheels came off rather spectacularly for the home side.
Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith departed in quick succession as the visitors suddenly sprung into action upon being buoyed by the breakthrough. Vernon Philander got into his groove with a stifling spell to restrict Australia’s lead to a meager 2 runs. Even though South Africa have suffered a huge blow through Steyn’s injury, the Aussies would not want to leave themselves with a formidable fourth-innings chase on a surface which has offered bowlers plenty of assistance.
Warner admitted, “We have to respect each individual. There are two very good fast bowlers there (Philander and Kagiso Rabada) and we've seen the wickets they can take. We can't look too far ahead. In this match, we still have to bowl well and then bat again but we know know that if we get through that first period with the new ball, they will have to revert to spin.”