South Africa lead after Philander razes Australia for 85

  • Sports, Published on: Saturday 12th November 16 - 10:20pm

Australia have become used to humiliating collapses in recent years. There was 47 all out in Cape Town in 2011. There was 60 all out in Nottingham last year. But, at least those debacles occurred halfway around the world, not in front of a home crowd. On the first day in Hobart, Australia found a new way to embarrass themselves, folding for 85 against South Africa, lasting only 32.5 overs as Vernon Philander led the perfect bowling display for the conditions.

Only one other time in the post-war era had Australia survived so few deliveries in a Test innings at home. That was in 1984, against Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner and Michael Holding at the WACA of old, mitigating circumstances if ever there were. The innings was over so quickly on that occasion that Courtney Walsh, on debut, didn't even get a bowl. In any case, Australia's captain Kim Hughes lasted only one more Test before resigning in tears.

Such context is important in understanding just how disastrous Australia's performance truly was on the first day in Hobart. Steven Smith was the only batsman capable of fighting, and he finished unbeaten on 48. Only one other man reached double figures: the debutant Joe Mennie, a bowler who came in at No.8 and struck a couple of boundaries in reaching 10. Australia's scorecard featured more single figures than a dating website.

But to focus entirely on Australia's batting is to unfairly devalue the efforts of South Africa's bowlers and fielders. Faf du Plessis won the toss and sent Australia in - Smith conceded he would also have fielded if he had the choice - and although there was cloud overhead and moisture in the pitch, the bowlers still needed to make the most of those advantages. With Philander their leader, they did that most brilliantly.

The ball moved off the seam, sharply at times, and it swung, and South Africa's bowlers found the perfect lengths and lines to make Australia's batsmen play. Philander finished with 5 for 21, remarkable considering he left the field mid-innings with what appeared at the time to be a nasty shoulder injury, and Kyle Abbott picked up 3 for 41. The catching and throwing - a direct hit from 12th man Dane Vilas especially - backed up the bowlers.

By stumps, Australia's bowlers had tried to fight back as best they could. Mitchell Starc was briefly at his fearsome best in a post-tea spell that brought him three wickets in 10 balls, and Josh Hazlewood backed him up with two breakthroughs, but Australia's miserable batting meant they had still given up a significant advantage by stumps. South Africa finished the day on 5 for 171 and were 86 runs in front, with Temba Bavuma on 38 and Quinton de Kock on 28.

 

Their partnership had reached 39, which meant that South Africa had already managed four stands of greater value than any put up by an Australian pair earlier in the day. Heavy falls had been expected in Hobart on Saturday, but it turned out to be wickets rather than rain. And it all began early, with both of Australia's openers back in the dressing room by the end of the second over of the match.

In the first over, David Warner flashed wildly and widely outside off and edged Philander behind. In the second over, the recalled Joe Burns was lbw to an Abbott delivery that jagged back so sharply, it was as if Abbott was bowling fast offspin. In the ninth over, Philander had Usman Khawaja caught at slip from another seamer, and next ball, he drew Adam Voges forward and nipped one away, which was edged behind to Quinton de Kock for a golden duck.

Australia were 4 for 8, which was their lowest four-down total in a Test innings for nearly 80 years. It was into this environment that debutant Callum Ferguson walked, needing also to survive his first ball in Test cricket in order to prevent a Philander hat-trick. He did that, but the chaos was far from over.

Ferguson was run out for 3 when he pushed Abbott through backward point, where Vilas misfielded. Ferguson came back for a second run but his dive was beaten by a stunning direct hit from the recovering Vilas, who had only been on the field for three balls after Philander left with a shoulder injury. Philander, who had 3 for 3 at the time, had collided painfully with Smith, but was able to return after lunch to help run through Australia's tail.

Australia lost a sixth wicket before lunch when Peter Nevill was lbw to Kagiso Rabada, and they went to the break on 6 for 43. After lunch, Philander bowled Mennie, before Abbott had both Starc and Hazlewood caught in the cordon, Hazlewood to a brilliant take by the diving Hashim Amla. Australia's humiliation - and Philander's five-for - was complete when Nathan Lyon edged behind for 2. Nobody had managed to stick around with Smith for any significant stay. He didn't even have time for a fifty.

If Australia hoped the conditions would make life equally difficult for South Africa's top order, they were to be initially disappointed. By tea, South Africa's openers had moved to 43 without loss, but after the resumption, Starc found a little of his best as a searing yorker trapped Dean Elgar lbw for 17 with the first ball of the session. Later that over, Starc also had Stephen Cook caught behind for 23, and in his next over, JP Duminy edged to slip on 1.

But South Africa moved along to 76 before losing a fourth wicket - du Plessis lbw for 7 to a Hazlewood delivery that seamed in - and all the while, Amla was frustrating Australia at the other end. Amla compiled 47 and put on 56 for the fifth wicket with Bavuma, before he edged behind off Hazlewood.

It meant 15 wickets had fallen in the day, although Australia lost twice as many as South Africa. And by stumps, South Africa had scored more than twice as many runs as Australia. As far as humiliations go, this day was right up there for Australia. Or, perhaps more accurately, down there.

South Africa 5 for 171 (Amla 47, Starc 3-49) lead Australia 85 (Smith 48*, Philander 5-21, Abbott 3-41) by 86 runs