Forever Young

It seems a little simplistic (not to mention repetitive) to say it but watching Australia taken to the cleaners at the Adelaide Oval yesterday felt a lot like watching the changing of the international guard.

South Africa had Hashim Amla, now one of the classiest batsmen on the international circuit, and AB de Villiers, punchily consistent and able to resume wearing the keeper's gloves after several years' hiatus without missing a beat; Australia, in the field, had Shaun Tait, Ben Hilfenhaus and James Hopes, three bowlers who, with the best will in the world, are never going to strike fear into any international batting line-up worth the name. Tait has plenty of raw pace but little else going for him; Hilfenhaus looks as though he might be capable of doing a bit with the ball in more helpful conditions. But conditions and circumstances weren't helping yesterday, and they they were blown out of the water by a much better side.

South Africa also had Herschelle Gibbs, who went relatively early in their reply but not before he had issued a rich reminder of the talent which has sustained the South African top order for more than a decade. Gibbs is one of those players who seems destined, stylistically and temperamentally, to remain young forever, but a glance at the facts reveals that he's almost 35 and, with his lengthy record of off-field baggage, might almost be older.

Yesterday, though, the problems were all on the field and all those of the Australian bowling attack, as he repeatedly used his feet to plunder the bowling (Hilfenhaus suffered particularly badly) both through and over the off-side with timing and power that spoke of genius. In the end he fell to a shot that was poor and over-ambitious, but that, of course, is what geniuses do.

As Alan Ross once wrote of Curtly Ambrose, for Gibbs there will not be many more such days.

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