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Kumar can't stop the music, Australia can't stop AB de Villiers

Port Elizabeth: And the band played on.

A musical stand-off at St George's Park provided the soundtrack to a second day of the second Test on which South Africa put their heads in front thanks to a virtuoso performance from AB de Villiers.

The modern-day great inspired the Proteas to 7-263 in their first innings, a 20-run lead, with a dashing and unbeaten knock of 74 runs from 81 deliveries in which he was immune to the dangers of reverse swing that tormented his teammates.

Australia's bowlers will attempt to limit the hosts' advantage with a new ball barely five overs old on Sunday and the key will be keeping de Villiers, who has Vernon Philander (14 not out) alongside him, from a 22nd Test century.

The background noise will again be provided by the St George Brass Band, a much-loved institution at Test matches at this ground.

But on Saturday afternoon, that did not appear as if it would be the case when umpire Kumar Dharmasena played cranky conductor, instructing the musicians to put down their instruments during play.


The Sri Lankan official had earlier missed a thick inside edge that careered into the pads of Hashim Amla, giving him out leg-before in a decision the South African batsman had overturned on review.

"The umpire was saying he can't hear any more because of us," Cole Ingram from the band told SEN Radio.

"They just signalled that we should stop playing. The guys felt that was unreasonable. We spoke to the match official this morning and we had a good understanding from him of what's expected of us during the day. Now, all of a sudden the umpires are saying we should stop playing. The guys are not happy."

The band responded by packing up and staging a walk-out, prompting a round of boos around the venue. However, they were soon back with their tubas and french horns for an encore, defiantly resuming at full volume.

Match referee Jeff Crowe, who has had enough on his hands already in this series, walked onto the ground at the drinks break for a huddle with Dharmasena and fellow umpire S Ravi while the Australian team wondered what all the fuss was about.

"The band plays in every match here," one player was heard through a stump microphone to quip to an umpire.

Mitchell Marsh added after play: "I love my music. I used to play the tuba at school."

Amla was one of the batsmen in the middle at the time.

"They were obviously there for a while, and they disappeared for little while, and they came back," he said.

"(The umpires) have got to make big decisions so obviously they decided that it was disturbing them. So be it."

Australia ended up being served well by the whole shebang.

Soon after the band marched out the breakthrough they had waited for arrived when Mitchell Starc bowled Amla (56) with a delivery that straightened at the last fraction of a section and this time missed his outside edge, clattering into off stump.

When the tunes began again, delaying play briefly, they claimed a second wicket in quick succession as Josh Hazlewood got a fullish ball to nip away and shave the edge of Dean Elgar's bat to end his extended stay on 57.

Marsh, having been down for the count with gastro a day earlier, then chimed in with a double blow in the space of two overs, trapping both Faf du Plessis (9) and Theunis de Bruyn (1) lbw to leave the Proteas 6-183.

The almost peerless de Villiers ensured South Africa would claim a first-innings lead, however, although he lost another partner when Nathan Lyon took care of the off stump of Quinton de Kock (9) with a stunning off break.

With the ball reversing, the Australian bowlers were able to restrict Elgar and Amla despite their lengthy and determined occupation, which lasted from inside the first hour to beyond tea. In that period the pair was only able to add 88 runs together and only 43 in the middle session.

With a near run-a-ball display de Villiers' was on a different level and South Africa cruised past the Australian total late in the day with him in command.

Like the brass band, he is proving very difficult to silence.