Two hands: Alex Doolan grabbed his Test chance. Photo: Getty Images
Alex Doolan has emerged from his first Test for Australia with rave reviews from his captain and coach.
While Doolan's 27 in his debut innings was encouraging it was not a patch on what he produced in the second half of the match: 89 as part of a double-century partnership with David Warner on day three and two astonishing catches at short-leg on day four.
"Not bad, is he?" Australia captain Michael Clarke beamed after Doolan demonstrated superb reflexes to catch both Graeme Smith and J. P. Duminy from shots in which they intentionally, and skilfully, turned Mitchell Johnson off their pads.
In the first instance Johnson angled a full delivery into left-hander Smith. While the ball flew directly into his hands his sharp reaction in accepting the chance was matched only by how quickly he threw the ball in the air to leave the crowd stunned.
In the second instance Doolan thrust both hands to his left after Duminy's stroke. He was unable to grasp the chance cleanly but managed to guide the ball onto his chest where he clasped it conclusively.
Clarke described both catches as outstanding, yet even that could be argued to be an understatement. "Think he might keep his job for a little bit longer . . . you take catches like that and you are not going anywhere," he said.
The captain was just as complimentary of Doolan's effort with the bat on day three, particularly the 21 balls he faced against the new ball before lunch after arriving at 1-1.
Clarke argued the challenge of the bowling he withstood in that six-over period, from Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, would be the equal of anything the Tasmanian would face during his Test career given the timing, pitch conditions and calibre of opposition.
"I don't think he'll play a tougher innings than that throughout his career," he said. "You're playing against a fantastic bowling attack . . . the best attack that I've played against in my career, on a wicket that was going up and down. To be able to play like that on debut he deserves a lot of credit."
Australia coach Darren Lehmann said Doolan's experience batting in difficult conditions at Hobart's Blundstone Arena had put him in good stead for the challenge he faced in Centurion against the Proteas.
"He had good experience with Tassie on those sorts of wickets out there for example, and plays fast bowling really well. It was an easy one for us – we just hoped he'd grab his opportunity," Lehmann said.
"He played really well, especially before lunch yesterday when [Dale] Steyn and the boys were going at it quite hard."