Speedster James Pattinson admitted Australia’s off-key pace attack suffered stage fright as South Africa dominated the opening day of their Test battle on an unusually soft and slow Gabba.
The hosts endured their worst opening-day performance at the ground since their last Test loss in Brisbane, 24 years ago, as the Proteas finished a commanding 2-255 when bad light stopped play with eight overs remaining yesterday.
Leading duo Hashim Amla (90 not out) and Jacques Kallis (84 not out) will resume their stand of 136 this morning as the No.1-ranked team look to build a big first-innings score.
But they may have to do it without classy left-hander JP Duminy who rolled his ankle in a dramatic post-stumps mishap while running on the slippery ground.
A distressed Duminy, the Proteas’ primary spinner as well as No.7 batsman, was rushed to hospital for scans and he remains in doubt for the final four days.
“I saw him getting carried off but I’m more worried about getting Kallis and Amla out,” Pattinson said matter-of-factly.
It was the only downer for the tourists on day one as they blunted Australia’s fast bowlers who failed to deliver on captain Michael Clarke’s promise to rough up the high-quality batting line-up.
Pattinson was the only quick to taste some success on a forgettable day, trapping Graeme Smith (10) leg before in the opening hour.
“I think we were definitely too short early on and that can happen coming into big games with plenty of nerves flying around,” he said.
“You want to try and get the ball in the right areas but we dropped a bit short.”
The 22-year-old tearaway also admitted Australia shot themselves in the foot by failing to build pressure with tight bowling on the uncharacteristically soft pitch.
“We can make excuses but I think we probably lacked a bit of penetration and bit of consistency,” Pattinson said.
“When the wicket isn’t playing the way you want with a bit of pace and movement you want to dry up (the runs) as much as you can and we didn’t do that. When you play against world-class batsmen they’re good, especially on slow wickets, at getting the ball in the gaps and rotating the strike.
“You have to put them under as much pressure as possible and we gave them that four-ball every now and again.”
Also tormenting the home side was a series of near misses, with Kallis caught off a Peter Siddle no-ball when 43 before Siddle then dropped a sharp return catch from Amla on 74.
Australia earlier burnt the second and last of their umpire referrals just after lunch when opener Alviro Petersen, on the way to a platform-setting 64, was lucky not to be given out leg before to a Ben Hilfenhaus yorker that struck him marginally outside the line.
Not since Allan Border’s men were routed for 167 by the West Indies in 1988 have Australia finished in such a poor position on day one at a ground considered their fortress.
Australia kept the faith in their under-pressure offspinner Nathan Lyon who was targetted by the Proteas but did chip in with the wicket of Petersen who holed out to deep mid-on.