Out … the Australians celebrate Dave Warner, centre, taking a wicket in his first over, the prized scalp of Hashim Amla, stumped by Matthew Wade. Photo: Getty Images
THE blond hair, the zinc cream, the pre-slimming physique and even the delivery stride are strangely reminiscent of the greatest leg-spinner to tread this turf or any other. David Warner, as a bowler, will never be Shane Warne but he channelled the legendary tweaker with a crucial late breakthrough on Friday that keeps Australia's hopes of a series-defining victory alive in Adelaide.
Fresh from plundering South Africa on day one, the part-timer skipped, Warne-like, up the wicket after fooling Hashim Amla, the world's best batsman this year outside of Michael Clarke, in his first over.
The subsequent skittling of Amla's stumps by Matthew Wade provided much-needed respite on a warm second day of the second Test in which South Africa, led by captain Graeme Smith (111 not out), fought back doggedly and Australia, scratching their heads for a wicket, used eight bowlers. ''I've faced him a couple of times at Delhi,'' said South Africa's Morne Morkel of Warner, his Indian Premier League teammate. ''He fancies himself as a bit of a golden arm.''
Smith, more the strongarm type, registered the most patient and methodical of centuries late in the afternoon, and will be content to arrive on Saturday with his team 2-217. The unheralded hero for South Africa, though, was their skyscraping fast bowler Morkel. Not immune to the carnage caused by Clarke, Warner and Michael Hussey with the bat on Thursday, he enjoyed some degree of revenge on day two, knocking over Clarke's middle peg early to end his latest adventure on 230, and completing a five-wicket haul as Australia, who had been 4-482, were rolled with a new ball promptly for 550.
South Africa, progressing like the tortoise to Australia's hare, did not put on the hosts' theatrics after that but dug in. Smith brought up his hundred, the 26th of his career, shortly before stumps. It was not one for the highlight reels but, like Clarke has done so often lately for his team, extricated the Proteas from a deep mire. The concerning statistic for the hosts is this: on the 25 times Smith previously made a Test century, South Africa have not been defeated. It is also worth remembering England made 551 batting first in Adelaide in 2005 but lost, principally at the hands of the real Warne.
Smith was not without a healthy dose of luck. Indeed, a botched stumping by Wade may prove an expensive mistake. Surviving by the skin of his teeth, the bullish Smith was on 46 when the Australian wicketkeeper made a meal of out of an attempted removal of the broad left-hander's bails. Later, Smith was given out by umpire Richard Kettleborough on 78 but James Pattinson's celebration at apparently enticing a faint edge from the Proteas' captain was short lived, the decision overturned by third official Asad Rauf through absence of Hot Spot evidence.
Wade, in part, made amends for his mishap with another sharp play that almost stumped South Africa's other opener, Alviro Petersen, and he finished off Warner's fourth Test wicket despite a slight fumble.
Warner's leg-breaks earned him three wickets in the West Indies but none as valuable as Amla. Yet another Test century beckoned for the Proteas No.3 on a strip as helpful to bowlers as a blindfold, and a tyre tied behind them. However, what might have been a full toss from Warner, just introduced, was his undoing as he tried and failed to take him on. It was a roll of the dice by Clarke, who shuffled his attack like cards, and it paid off.
''That's the way Michael Clarke likes to captain,'' Hussey said. ''He goes with his gut a lot of the time, sometimes throws things in from left field and it showed in Davey Warner's wicket. He's always just looking to try and find a new way to get a wicket I guess.''
Threatening to cause real havoc, Warner soon after created more excitement, ripping a leg-break out of the rough and into Jacques Rudolph's pads. The new South Africa No.4, promoted after the injured Jacques Kallis was put down the order at No.7, escaped a referral and plodded along to stumps at 25 not out.
Australia's only other wicket came courtesy of a maddening run-out.
Petersen, having avoided being bulldozed in a mid-pitch collision with Smith, was trapped short of his crease on 54, not bothering to sprint or drag his bat after his detour and not expecting Hussey's fine direct hit from mid-on. If there were any doors or windows in tact in the dressing room since Dan Christian's last game, here they looked in immediate danger.