Rob Houwing reports for sport24.com that somebody may have to do a “Gary Kirsten” if South Africa are to escape from the hell-hole the second Test against Australia has become at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead here.
The epic 275 Kirsten made in a rearguard cause for his country at this ground against England in 1999/2000 serves as a rare beacon of hope for the Proteas to cling to in their quest to save the game.
The merciless Aussies, already 1-0 ahead in the series, were a whopping 506 runs to the good with seven second-innings wickets in hand after day three on Sunday, although their camp remained cagey over whether the South Africans would be inserted first thing on Monday.
There must be a good chance that Ricky Ponting will do that, because survival is almost certain to be the dominant thought on the embattled home team’s minds rather than any grandiose vision of a miracle, record-annihilating win.
Ponting will be quietly comforted, too, that the Proteas are a man down in the form of their injured captain Graeme Smith, likely to bat way down the order only if there is a realistic opportunity late on the final day of forcing the draw.
But at least there is some evidence in recent times that particularly high-scoring, stone-walling third or fourth innings at this venue are possible.
In the Test nine years ago Kirsten, now coach of India, took to the crease as one of the openers in the late afternoon of the third day’s play, and could not be budged until his dismissal in the lengthening shadows of day five led to the game being called off as a stalemate.
South Africa had followed on after scoring only 156 in reply to England’s first knock of 366 for nine declared, and Kirsten batted for the entire duration of the reply – nearly 15 hours – as his side posted 572 for seven in 209.2 overs.
Just who will step up to emulate, or even partially so, the gritty left-hander is anybody’s guess, because Smith would have been a strong candidate for a marathon vigil and several other potentially watchful and defiant batsmen like Jacques Kallis and Neil McKenzie are struggling for big scores.
Another factor to consider is that even when Smith is able to take his berth at the top of the order, the current Proteas team has a questionable tail, and now Paul Harris is quite likely to be pressed into service at No 7!
But the pitch had flattened out considerably on day three – helped by a rolling before play and then again at 10:07 as the South African first innings feebly folded – and Australia do not have a truly specialist spinner to exploit the rough that has begun to enter the equation.
In the third innings of a 2004/05 Test, England, this time, found Kingsmead late-match conditions surprisingly favourable as they amassed 570 for seven after a first knock of 139, which was just one more run than the Proteas managed in the present Test.
These may just be statistics but the team under Mark Boucher’s acting command need all the good harbingers they can get …Tweet