One wayward little bird sends tensions flying

THE outcome was a placid draw, but the contents were anything but peaceful.

Australia set the tone for the remainder of the series against top-ranked South Africa with a fiery verbal interlude led by pacemen James Pattinson and Peter Siddle, who unloaded on Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla as tensions mounted on the final day of the first Test.

It is all square heading to Adelaide next week, but via actions and words, the momentum is with Michael Clarke and co.

Frustrated at the intransigence of the Proteas batsmen and a succession of unsuccessful appeals, and requiring an almighty collapse to snare a famous victory, Australia's quicks unleashed on Tuesday - and two of South Africa's most accomplished runscorers were in the firing line.

Pattinson, Australia's standout bowler at the Gabba, even risked a fine by giving Smith, the Proteas captain, an old-fashioned send-off after he had the broad left-hander caught in the gully by Rob Quiney for 23.

It was the culmination of an ongoing stand-off between the two that threatened to boil over - and all as a result of the flying trajectory of a bird. The breaking point occurred just after lunch when Pattinson, in the middle of a superb spell in which he repeatedly troubled South Africa's top order, was steaming into bowl when Smith backed away from the crease, raising his bat. Pattinson did not stop, and his delivery bounced over the stumps.

Channel Nine's new toy, Spidercam, was an initial suspect, but it turned out a feathered spectator, not a remote-controlled one, had darted across Smith's line of sight, and right across the pitch.

Pattinson, who clearly did not see the intruder himself, was not amused, giving Smith a mouthful. He returned to his mark, ripped in a bouncer, then another spray. There were glares and grunts to follow before the ultimate outcome for the young Victorian, coaxing Smith to edge into the safe palms of Quiney.

''There was a lot of noise - I didn't really make out what was being said,'' Smith said.

Pattinson was warned by umpire Asad Rauf, as was Siddle, who also allowed passions to overflow in a one-way exchange with Amla.

Amla appeared unperturbed as Siddle had heated words with him, and with Rauf, after having a raucous caught-behind appeal turned down.

Like Pattinson, though, Siddle would get his man, and not long after prompting Amla to steer the ball to Mike Hussey.

Clarke, the Australian captain, praised his bowlers' approach, insisting they did not overstep the mark, a crime that was committed in a literal sense, in the form of no-balls, more than 30 times in the match.

''Patto knows the rules. I think the aggression, the intent is the way we play our best cricket, and I certainly don't want to stop that,'' said Clarke, who had earlier declared while unbeaten on 259 and with Australia 5-565.

''But we understand there's a line, and you can go to the line but you can't overstep it.

''I think the boys deserve a lot of credit for their attitude in the second innings. Our intent was the way it needs to be when you're playing against such a good team. Our attitude was spot-on today with the ball. We were quite aggressive with our approach and we seemed to get better throughout the Test match.

''I think it was all friendly banter. I know Smithy was having a good laugh, I know Patto was doing the same. You've got two very competitive teams that want to have success and both teams are going to push hard, but both teams understand where the line is and I'm pretty sure nobody overstepped that mark today or throughout the Test match.

''The game was played in really good spirit … I think both teams played in the right way.''

Pattinson, in particular, was outstanding on an afternoon where there was only ever going to be one result - a draw. He had one eye-catching spell of 1-18 from five overs after lunch that showed all the attributes behind his ambition to be the country's long-term spearhead.

Pattinson and Siddle will again form the core of the Australian attack in the second Test in Adelaide, starting on Thursday week, but Ben Hilfenhaus could make way as the third seamer for left-armer Mitchell Starc.

This story One wayward little bird sends tensions flying first appeared on WA Today.