Brass-band brouhaha makes way for AB's sweet tunes

Wessels: South Africa need an 80-run lead (2:18)

Kepler Wessels reviews another enthralling day's cricket between South Africa and Australia, in Port Elizabeth (2:18)

It was a day of drama, debate, deplorable actions, deserving punishments, drumbeats and drowning out of said sounds, and that's before we even get to the cricket. The second day's play in Port Elizabeth offered something for everyone and a little too much for some. It served up several stoushes, as they say in Australia, and it was a day of sideshows, and then it was a day for the AB de Villiers show.

Let's walk through the highlights reel:

When Kagiso Rabada walked out to bat this morning, he would have known it could be one of the last things he does in this series. Rabada was charged with a Level 2 offence early this morning, after a shoulder brush with Steven Smith on the first day, and if his rap sheet of five demerit points is added to, he will sit out the next two matches.

Perhaps that served as extra motivation to make sure that South Africa would at least go into those matches with a chance to win the series. Rabada scored almost as many runs as his captain Faf du Plessis, opening batsman Aiden Markram, and two other specialist batsmen, Theunis de Bruyn and Quinton de Kock, combined, and delighted with his technically correct strokeplay. At his best, he drove Josh Hazlewood through mid-off for four: a shot laced with exquisite timing and perfect placement.

Rabada has the potential to become a genuine lower-order allrounder and has already shown in this Test match how valuable he is, which will only make his potential absence tougher to deal with. But, before South Africa turn their attention to that, they have to think about a host of other things, most of all reverse-swing.

On an abrasive surface, against an attack with some of the best executioners of reverse in the current game, South Africa's batting techniques were tested. Hashim Amla, who was part of the half that passed the test, explained that facing extensive periods of reverse-swing was what made batting so difficult. "Ideally, you want to play as straight as possible," he said. "When the ball is reversing like that, you've got to accept that things are slightly in favour of the bowlers and you have to be a bit tighter."

Both Amla and Dean Elgar had to employ an ultra-cautious approach, which may have made the game appear as though it had stalled. In the 19 overs between Rabada's dismissal and lunch, they only scored 43 runs.

Also in that time, news filtered through that CSA had apologised to CA after two home officials posed for photographs with a masked fan. The background to this incident is explained elsewhere, but in the moment, what became evident is that South Africa had been shoved off the moral ground they believed to be occupying, by their own executives and fans.

At least the same didn't happen on the field.

Amla and Elgar's grind continued through the second session, where in 23 overs they only accumulated 41 runs. "Those who are Test-match lovers would appreciate the skill of the bowlers," Amla said afterwards. And those who are not really and just enjoy a bit of entertainment?

Well, there was nothing for them because it was in this period that the brass band was instructed not to play, and they left their positions. While the expectation sometimes is that the band will play only between overs or at breaks, their sounds often seep into play, and players on both sides said they do not mind. But the umpires did and silenced the band. The crowd, by then boisterous, did not appreciate the intervention. Chants of "We want the band" were almost as loud as the trombone.

The band returned after tea, shortly after Amla was bowled by a Starc delivery that angled in and then straightened to beat the outside edge, and were hushed twice in the over Elgar was dismissed. Match referee Jeff Crowe addressed the umpires about the band after Elgar's wicket fell and the tone of the day changed completely.


The band didn't affect the batters - Amla

South Africa's Hashim Amla talks about the umpires' call to ask the Port Elizabeth brass band to stop playing

The music came back, the controversies were filed away, and AB de Villiers was the crease. His first runs came from a drive through the covers off Starc, an early suggestion that he was ready for another solo show. Watching him bat, it was easy to forget that he had a foundation to work from, that without Elgar and Amla and even Rabada, de Villiers would have had to perform a rescue act, not a showstopper, and that often in a batting line-up, hard work comes first and fun later.

But this had been a day of very hard work. There had been a ban to consider and mistakes to atone for, there had been an attempted silencing of something many South Africans hold dear, and there had been relentless reverse-swing. All some people would have wanted was an escape, and de Villiers provided it.

Australia opened up the off side to him when they got Hazlewood to bowl around the wicket, with a short leg and leg gully in place, and de Villiers cut through gully. Pat Cummins tried full and wide, and de Villiers edged. When he tried short and wide, de Villiers pulled, and then full on middle was drilled through the covers. De Villiers reverse-swept Nathan Lyon, swatted him to the deep square leg boundary, took South Africa to within touching distance of Australia's score with two beautiful fours off Cummins, and then took them into the lead.

The best way to understand how much de Villiers was needed and appreciated was to have listened. A popular war cry at South African grounds, especially this one is "(Insert player name), jou lekker ding (you good thing)", and it has been the property of JP Duminy for the last few summers. Not anymore. "AB, jou lekker ding" is the new hit. And so, on a day of sideshows, it was the AB show that stood out.