Like a delirious marathoner on wobbly legs, South Africa has staggered to the finish line. They clung on with two measly wickets to spare, and Australia will be gutted tonight. They shouldn’t be.

We didn't win, but Peter Siddle has much to celebrate. We all do

Australia and South Africa both played their part in a drawn match which was a win for the game of Test cricket. A Test draw like we saw today is a beautiful thing. A frustrating, often boring, hair-tearingly exasperating thing, but a beautiful thing nonetheless.

From the batting perspective, a draw brings out everything that the modern cricketer is programmed not to do. Look at Dave Warner on day one blasting 119 off 112 balls. Then look at AB de Villiers scoring 33 of 220 yesterday and today. Even the seagulls were entitled to fall asleep.

De Villiers, as much as the unbeaten centurian Faf du Plessis, was the architect of this South African escape. Almost the whole team played its part, pfaffing around with Faf, ignoring not just every instinct of the modern cricketer but every instinct of man himself.

The defensive cricket stroke known colloquially as “the block” is about as natural a human motion as the pole vault. It’s just not something we men are programmed to do. But ball after ball, over after over, the South Africans resisted the urge to unleash weapons and instead built the Great Wall of China.

That is what Test cricket is about, always has been about. The test not just of skill but of character. And these South Africans have character. Maybe that character would have been tested more deeply against Warne and McGrath, but to argue that it is to grossly disrespect the efforts of Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle.

Lyon’s figures were incredible. Even accounting for South Africa’s stonewalling, he sent down 50 overs for just 49 runs. Has anyone ever bowled 50 overs at less than a run per over?

As for Siddle, the man has the heart of three lions and must surely be the first quick picked when Australia takes on England – the team with three lions as its logo – later this year. He is an inspiration.

This was a day which was totally lost on the unconverted. Many of my colleagues in the large newsroom in which I work were perplexed as to why one team was trying not to win, but merely to survive. To them, it was like a Bond movie with no car chases or lovemaking scenes with the slinky Russian spy in a hot tub.

Oh, this was much more rewarding than any of that. This was an arm wrestle between the world number one and the team that would take its mantle. Australia may yet claim that title in the Perth Test starting Friday, although you sense that the mental and physical effort of Adelaide may tell, and that South Africa now has the upper hand.

That’s the thing about a draw in Test cricket, especially a draw as exhausting as today’s. It galvanises or deflates teams for the next match. It is a stalemate on paper, but can be a win or loss of the mental variety which yields a result down the track.

And by the way, I write all this as an unabashed fan of Twenty20 cricket. I love that I can take my six year old to a T20 game and be home at a reasonable hour, or that I can go with my mates and drink beer and enjoy brutal hitting for its own sake.

If T20 is an action flick, this was War and Peace. It was a true epic. A real war of attrition. Heck, I know those are both clichés, but I’m too exhausted from today’s action to waste energy on my own phrases.

You can only imagine how players from both sides feel.

Twitter: @antsharwood

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22 comments

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    • Helt says:

      06:41pm | 26/11/12

      I must be one of the unconverted because that was excruciating. It wasn’t sport.

    • PW says:

      06:42pm | 26/11/12

      Australia had its chance. Du Plessis was dropped in the 90s right before tea. If that catch is taken, Australia win.

      Australia have had by far the better of the series but are vulnerable in Perth. We` still have problems bowling good batting teams out.

    • Nick says:

      07:04pm | 26/11/12

      Funny to see this title at the top of the same page that carries Penbo’s lament about how uncouth we have become.

    • James Mathews says:

      08:41pm | 26/11/12

      Well it was an enthralling battle, this is what test cricket has been known to do and that is why it is still the most watched form of the game. This is better to watch than those twenty/20’s and ODI’s.
      The innings played by Clarke in the first and Faf in the second was a great advertisement for the game and it show’s.
      Keep writing great articles like this Anthony Sharwood

      Twitter: BigJamesMathews

    • Nigel says:

      07:01am | 27/11/12

      It was an amazing effort for the South Africans to hang on. It’s just a shame that when given the chance to actually win when sent in with 5 sessions to get the runs they just shut up shop. All cudos to Michael Clark for trying to get a result.

    • ramases says:

      07:21am | 27/11/12

      What a bloody waste of time it was for the South Afriacans even coming over here after the last test effort, or is that non effort. They could have stayed at home and we could have watched a program on paint drying which would have been more entertaining than the crap they served us. Knowing that they were beaten and that Australia was down a strike bowler they decided to bore the crap out of everybody by blocking most of the bowling. To say that it was magnificent to watch them block the ball for a day and a bit is pure bullshit. Once there used to be a desire to play cricket to its fullest but it seems now that its win or draw at all costs and bugger the paying public. No wonder they are the top team in the world as they have bored the crap out of all the other teams who have given up.
        Hurry back the footy season so this farce called Cricket is once again consigned to the must not watch.

    • gobsmack says:

      08:16am | 27/11/12

      “Once there used to be a desire to play cricket to its fullest..”.

      In Adelaide in 1976-77 Gary Cosier and Rod Marsh blocked out a draw against Pakistan when Australia went into the last hour needing 56 to win. They ended up just 24 short with four wickets in hand.

    • Porter says:

      09:02am | 27/11/12

      Someone who appears to no enjoy nor understanding the game should probably not watch it, and not subsequently comment on articles about it.

    • Esteban says:

      11:37am | 27/11/12

      gobsmack. If you have to go back to 1976 to find an example of Australia batting out a draw instead of going for a win then what does that actually say?

      I actually think we should try to force more draws from time to time. There was at least one occassion when we were in India a few years ago where we could have tried for a draw but the batsmenn attacked and were bowled out.

      Whilst I would not want to see it happen all the time there are times, such as yesterday, when a fighting draw is for the best.

      I think it is a flaw in the Australian way of playing that we would rather go down fighting than force a draw.

      From the series perspective South africa had a big win yesterday. The next test starts in Perth on Friday and it might be hot weatrher. One team had their bowling attack sitting in the changerooms for the last day and a half and the other team had their undermanned attack practically bowled into the ground.

      Who will be freshest on Friday?

      For those who are not able to appreciate the achievement of SA drawing the match then I suggest you stick with following test cricket and talk to people who understand the game and you will get it eventually.

      gobsmack back to that draw in 1976. I remember it pretty well. The batmen were following greg Chappell’s instructions to force the draw.
      Greg Chappell was widely critisised and there were calls for his sacking.

      My strong recollection is that while chasing down the runs we were heading for certain defeat. In the end it looked bad because we ended up so close to their total but sometimes 56 runs is a lot.

    • DG says:

      12:24pm | 27/11/12

      Porter you are spot on…Generally I find that people who don’t like Test cricket don’t understand it.

      It was a great finish with one team fighting to win & one fight fighting not to lose. Graeme Smith has now scored 26 Test centuries in which SA have never lost.  17 wins & 9 draws - interesting stat.

    • edo says:

      01:53pm | 27/11/12

      I’m affraid you are so so misguided here mate.. don’t comment on things you don’t understand. It was a great test , the idea is to win, if you can’t win then the aim is to not lose ie. Draw. South Africa could not win going into day 5 at 4/77 so they played to save the match.. it’s not always about winning. Go back to commenting on IPL buddy test cricket is too complex for you

    • gobsmack says:

      02:13pm | 27/11/12

      @Esteban
      That particular Test sticks in my mind as the most disgraceful example of going for a draw when a win was quite achievable.

      I think it was when Mark Taylor took over as captain that Australia became more adventurous.  His attitude seem to be that it was only a game and that playing entertaining cricket was more important than avoiding defeat.

      Without checking the all the stats, my impression is that over the last 20 years or so, Australia either hasn’t had to chase big 4th innings totals or has failed miserably and I can’t recall the last time it has had the serious option of playing out for the draw.

    • Esteban says:

      03:32pm | 27/11/12

      gobsmack. that particular tests sticks in your mind as the ONLY example of a draw where a victory could have been chased.

      So my point is if the only occassion you can recall happened 35 years ago then it dfoes not seem to be an issue.

      Since 1976 hundreds of tests have been played yet you can not come up with a time when Australia could have forced a draw but instead lost the test.

      That simply reinforces my point that we don’t do it enough.

      I like the idea that every captain can stamp his own influence on the game.

      Ian Chappell. Daring and attacking. Always declared before I would have

      Greg Chappell/Kim Hughes. too complex to go into here.

      Border came out of an era of dominace by the WIndies and too many beatings due to WSC.As a result was very conservative. Prevent loss first then go for victory. Always declared after I would have.

      Taylor was only interested in series wins hence lots of dead rubber losses. very bold and attacking with declarations.

      Waugh. Ruthless. Would not accept dead rubber losses. Not many draws.

      Ponting. He captained exactly the I would have. I always knew when he would declare because it was when I would have declared.

      Clarke has the potential to be the best captain of Aus ever.

      Some of them you like some you don’t. Once appointed we have to give them the freedom to captain in a way that they want.

    • I hate pies says:

      07:59am | 27/11/12

      That test was the perfect example of why they should allow a sixth day

    • Hammy says:

      09:00am | 27/11/12

      or a seventh…

    • James says:

      10:35am | 27/11/12

      I disagree. From an Aussie point of view, it would have been nice as we certainly would have won. But having a 6th day available would make the game so boring and safe it would be pointless. Australia wouldn’t have declared when they did on day 4 and South Africa would have had an even bigger target to chase. Even more boring.

      This game was great and it’s why I love Test Cricket. You don’t just have to be the better team to win, you have to be capable of destroying the other team entirely by taking 20 wickets. A good or bad team can come away with a draw. It takes a great team to get a win sometimes.

      I completely understand how you could find this game (or last day) boring. But for fans of Test Cricket it was thrilling. I’m sure if Australia managed to take 2 more wickets, or hang onto a few catches, people would be reacting in a completely different manner. Don’t change the rules just because your team didn’t win.

    • Lucas says:

      10:33am | 27/11/12

      @I hate the pies -they used to just keep playing until you got a result.

      To the author, as an association football (soccer) fan, I can concur with you that this was indeed enthralling and great to watch the drama as the two teams desperately tried to assert their dominance. You putting up with your colleagues is the same as when we put up with BS journalist trying to explain our game is boring when it ends 0-0. These can be some of the most exciting matches, perched on a knifeedge the whole time, fans clinging to the edge of their seats for 90 minutes or 5 days in this instance.

    • DaveB says:

      01:29pm | 27/11/12

      Good summation Ant, my sentiments exactly. Great test & deserved result, all things considered.

    • authentic reebok nfl jerseys'blog says:

      03:33pm | 27/11/12

      Valuable info. Lucky me I found your website by accident, and I am shocked why this accident didn’t happened earlier! I bookmarked it.

    • esteban says:

      04:42pm | 27/11/12

      Run away while you still can

    • Sir Viv says:

      04:46pm | 27/11/12

      100% Ant. Test Cricket still the boss. Fantastic test.

    • ted says:

      04:56pm | 27/11/12

      Mate…..a draw and you are happy? please…..dumb article

 

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