THE smallest measurable increment of time is that between the appearance of a red carpet and Brynne Edelsten plonking a Manolo Blahnik on the Berber. A close second is the fleeting instant between Graeme Smith correctly calling heads, and the first commentator declaring this ''a good toss to lose''.
The customary ''greenish tinge''. A heavy atmosphere. A lively Australian attack. First morning nerves.
Somewhere, Nasser Hussain woke in a cold sweat. Still haunted by that ill-fated morning in 2002 when, having ticked those Gabba boxes, the England captain sent Australia in. By the end of the day Hussain and his ''weapons of misdirection'' had restricted Australia to 2-364.
The Australians, at least, did not dig their own grave. Nor was the damage quite as painful or irreversible as that inflicted a decade ago. But after a combative lead-up during which the home nation had suffered delusions of equivalency with the highly regarded visitors, the only redeeming feature was that, before next year's Ashes, the Australians will be accustomed to being pummelled by South African batsmen.
Particularly in the Nine commentary box where, rather than celebrating a rollicking, the boys were fiddling with the controls of a new toy, ''The Desk'', a recycled Pacman machine that spews informative tit-bits about players - if not, in Mark Taylor's case, always the one being discussed.
There was also the ritual bullying of new boy Glenn McGrath, who was taunted about the questionable intelligence of fast bowlers. McGrath fought a tenacious battle to establish his IQ was higher than his batting average. Unfortunately, during some very un-dossierlike spells, the Australian quicks did less to enhance their intellectual reputations.
It is one thing to publish a dossier, quite another to assume the bowlers will down their Xbox joysticks long enough to read it. Or so it seemed in the periods when cliche harmonised with reality, and Australia's bowlers spurned the full length and consistent line needed to exploit any real - or even perceived - advantage the conditions might have granted.
The lone successful dossier moment came when, as prophesied, Smith was trapped leg before wicket. Otherwise, the start was so listless Dean Jones was prompted to tweet Peter Siddle was bowling ''pies''. To everyone's relief, Jones did not expand his sledging to former muse Hashim Amla, whose dossier profile suggested he was more susceptible to taunting than to razor rash.
When Amla scored a triple century at The Oval in July, it was noted by rueful locals he had been clean shaven when he took the crease. If this was a full series, Amla's greatest danger might be tripping over his luxuriant growth while running between the wickets. There was no sign names would hurt him.
The hosts did suffer some cruel moments - most agonisingly, Jacques Kallis caught from a Siddle no ball. Opener Alviro Petersen was also trapped LBW, the review system showing that a yorker struck his foot fractionally before his bat, and would have hit the stumps. However, it was not hitting enough of the stumps to satisfy the new regulations. Which made you wonder how much of the ball must now hit the bat for the review system to award a catch. And, more pertinently, if the review system is being calibrated to match the umpire's decisions, why use it at all?
But, for the most part, the South Africans were in control. So much so that Michael Slater's revelation that Rob Quiney was the first ''Q'' player to feature in a Test match in Australia was strangely welcome. Even if Quiney's pre-tea trundling suggested he had strengthened Australia's scrabble hand more than its attack.
Meanwhile, Nine is establishing its case to keep the game's free-to-air TV rights. The pre-game showreel featured a script requiring narrator Richie Benaud to use the somehow inappropriate phrase ''get stuffed''. The Australians would utter the words with far more conviction.
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