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You Won't Believe This, But Australia Is Dominating The Cricket

A big century to Khawaja and a great debut knock from Handscomb.

25/11/2016 2:58 PM AEDT | Updated 25/11/2016 10:15 PM AEDT
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Jason Reed / Reuters
Thank heavens for Ussie.

New selectors, new players, new hope for Australia. Australia is building its first innings nicely, and leads by 48 runs with four wickets remaining at the end of day two of the third Test against South Africa in Adelaide.

Usman Khawaja is not out on 138 after batting the whole day, and Mitchell Starc is on a patient 16 off 50 balls, showing that he, too, gets that everyone needs to dig in.

Just after 8pm local time, debutant middle order batsman Peter Handscomb was bowled by Kyle Abbott for 54. Handscomb was undone by a ball which moved back in, and bowled him between the proverbial "gate" between bat and pad, which is never a good look for a topline batsman. But if his unwritten job description was to show that the Australian middle order was not the start of the Australian tail, then it was a good first day at work.

The manner with which the 25-year-old Victorian brought up 50 in his first Test innings was particularly satisfying. He smashed three straight fours off Vernon Philander, and with his third, put Australia in the lead. If anything symbolised that the fresh blood was injecting life into the veins of Australian cricket, this was it.

Fellow newbie Nic Maddinson then fell for a 12-ball duck, but hey, one out of two middle order successes wasn't bad. Matthew wade also went cheaply, but Starc frustrated the South African attack until stumps, and Australia will be happy with its position.

Earlier, Australia was humming along nicely at 2/173 when disaster struck with captain Steve Smith run out for 59. Was there a single? Possibly. Should Khawaja have run harder? Definitely. Did Smith take off a little hastily? Probably. Does Australia keep finding a way of getting itself into trouble this summer whenever it looks like we're gaining the ascendancy? We don't need to answer that.

But Australia consolidated, thanks to Handscomb's breezy first knock and Khawaja's ongoing stoicism, broken by those flowing strokes which are so pretty to watch.

At the start of day two, the dreaded wobbles struck in just the fourth over of the day, as 20-year-old debutant Matt Renshaw fell to a dubious slips catch But was it a catch? Hmmmm.

It was originally ruled out by the field umpires, but they soon sent it upstairs for review after the ball appeared to bobble around in South African fielder Dean Elgar's hand.

Ch 9
Looks a little grassy from this angle.

Here's how the ball-by-ball commentators on leading cricket website espncricinfo.com saw it:

Abbott to Renshaw, OUT, what a catch Elgar. Those channels have been awesome this morning. The umpires aren't quite sure and want the third umpire to check if it has carried cleanly. Soft signal is out. It goes in cleanly, but bobbles out. Is the left hand underneath the ball as it comes out? Remember, there has to be conclusive evidence that the ball has hit the turf. A raucous Adelaide crowd doesn't count. Given. Superb catch... The ball hits the right hand and looks like it is going straight to the turf off the palm but he brings out the left hand to get underneath.

As the cricinfo guys said, the replay must conclusively show that the ball hit the Adelaide Oval turf. Would anyone swear on their life that it touched no grass whatsoever? Probably not. But rules are rules.

Dave Warner joined Usman Khawaja at the crease, after the opener was unable to bat Thursday night. He had spent time off the field attending to a sore shoulder, and the rules state you can't bat or bowl until you've been back on the field for the same length of time you were off it.

But he didn't last long. He fell for 11, also caught by Elgar off the bowling of Kyle Abbott. Australia was 2/109 at the tea break (which is actually the first break of the day in a day/night Test) and had dominated the middle session until Smith was run out.

The fact they added almost 200 runs in the ensuing two sessions, and still have four wickets in hand, was exactly the sort of form turnaround fans had been hoping for.

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