The Boxing Day Test which is played at the MCG is rather sacred in Australian sporting folk law. In our introspective tendencies, we sometimes overlook details and one of those is that South Africa also has a Boxing Day Test tradition. In fact, this point has cause a little chagrin in the past because the Proteas would like to host a Boxing Day Test against Australia. But that is never going to happen.
However, the next best thing is under way as South Africa is playing England in Durban in the second Test of the series. Day four proved to be decisive and it went decidedly in favour of the visitors.
Day four saw England start with a lead of 43 runs with five wickets in hand, with that font of untapped talent, Ian Bell at the crease. A handy position to be in but hardly commanding. England finished with a huge first innings lead of 232 following Bell’s masterpiece of 141.
At stumps, after a stunning final session, South Africa require 156 runs to make England bat again with only four wickets in hand. The man of the hour, Swann and the hero of the Ashes decider, Stuart Broad, have three wickets apiece. South Africa did manage to survive the final ten overs without loss but the innings is in tatters at 6-76 with all possible saviours back in the sheds.
In Melbourne, the game is interestingly poised. The TV station and the papers might “talk it up”, but can we dare to believe that Pakistan could make it interesting? However, it is true that Australia is once again making heavy work closing out a match. If it were not for the great man, Watson, who knows what could have happened. Now, it would have been bloody funny if butterfingers Rauf could have a held a straight forward catch at gully when Watson was 99, but he didn’t.
Watson’s recent achievements will be acknowledged in my final piece for the year but let me say congratulations to him on making a Test century. One that many thought would never come.