BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 18: David Warner of Australia is seen walking from the field after losing his wicket to Kagiso Rabada of South Africa during day two of the First Test match between Australia and South Africa at The Gabba on December 18, 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

At its heart, Test cricket was designed to be a battle between the bat and the ball.

Yet, for the vast majority of the egalitarian game's storied past, this battlefield has been skewed in a singular direction.

Though the days of amateur gentlemen padding up to paid grunts may be long gone, the advent of juiced-up bats and tailored pitches have elevated batters well beyond those asked to charge in with little more than leather.

While it is true that most in the outer prefer to watch wizards with the willow have their way in the middle, from time to time, the workhorses up the other end must have their day in the sun.

We had all been forewarned about how Gabba curator David Sandurski's pitch would play, but when the covers came off under Saturday morning's overcast skies, captains Pat Cummins and Dean Elgar could have been forgiven for mistaking the centre strip for the outfield.

The pair would have earned further reprieve had they gone searching for any dead presidents stamped on the pitch looking an homage to the US greenback.

'Win the toss and bat first' has long been the formula for success at the Gabba. Yet, with cloud coverage above, a green-top below and his name back on the team sheet, Cummins defied convention; pulling a Nasser Hussein at home by sending Elgar in for a first look.

Though, as play evolved, and Cummins careened toward becoming the first skipper to successfully buck the trend in nearly four decades, befuddlement from the Australian camp became evident.

Hardly a surprise, given this pitch was unlike anything unveiled for generations on these shores, let alone in the Sunshine State.

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For uninterrupted aeons, cricketers and punters alike have seen tracks prepared with batters in mind, stages they have thrived on; earning flowers, plaudits and the public's heart as their edges remain unbeaten and their front pads unmarked.

Though fixturing has favoured them, Australia's bats - sans one abrasive opener - have had their way so far this summer, combining for nigh-on 1500 runs from four stands against the West Indies, all at the cost of just 18 wickets.

Whether any Australian cricket junky will care to admit, a palate cleanser was well overdue.

Entering Saturday, there was a clear understanding that the Proteas' cast of quicks had come bearing teeth, with Sandurski understanding his assignment; adjusting his set to meet specifications.

With no member of its top and middle orders averaging north of 39 with the bat, even Blind Freddy could see that South Africa's greatest threat came in the form of their pace bowling quartet.

The combined threat of Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi and Marco Jansen may have been felt briefly by Brendan McCullum's 'Bazballers' this year, but if all early odds had stayed stacked in Australia's favour this summer, any promise of a contest would run the risk of evaporation just as promptly.

And with Australia's quicks still the global benchmark - their cartel's seasoned nucleus of Cummins, Starc and Lyon complemented to perfection by the clockwork strikes of Scott Boland - the prospect of an even fight-within-the-fight had studiers of the card salivating once the covers were removed.

Nobody should have been surprised by the state of the pitch, the pace or the pay-off. It was, for once, designed with the bowler in mind; acting as the horticultural equivalent of Halley's Comet flying true through Brisbane's balminess.

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The efforts of the ever-sublime Smith may have been scuppered, so too those of hometown heroes in Khawaja and Labuschange, however, with all seven quicks playing their roles to perfection, the Test was far from a fizzer. With 34 wickets falling at a rate of fewer than 15 runs apiece, the Test was conducted by alternative hands at a disparate tempo.

For those witnessing this restoration of balance, there was much to like. The home crowd had another milestone to cheer from Mitchell Starc, more brilliance from their own champion in Boland, and a game-winning bite-back from their commander-in-chief.

On the other side of the scorecard, a fast-twitched return catch by Ngidi, a peach at pace from Nortje, Jansen's announcement of epic proportions, and the seismic return of a familiar nemesis in Rabada were lapped up by the less parochial fanatics filling the Gabba's multi-coloured pews.

Still, there's no pleasing everyone, with the bleating and blaming all coming from an isolated section of the congregation. One at odds with their sudden lack of pampering.

Before the series opener's last rights were swiftly read, Ricky Ponting shot down Sandurski's excitable handiwork, taking his opportunity to render the curator's efforts as "poor" and "undercooked".

Ponting's former teammate and current compadre in commentary, Matthew Hayden, dug in too, professing the pitch had essentially stripped Australia of their home-ground advantage -  condemnation that can only mean hell has frozen over, given the burly Brisbanite's unofficial post as mayor.

Yet another batsman in Elgar joined the disgruntled chorus, questioning whether the strip was safe for play and bemoaning the two-day Test as a poor representation of the red-ball form.

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Sandurski himself fronted up to the baying throng, deliberately leaving balls on middle; allowing castigation to weather his creation in lieu of a third, fourth or fifth day's play.

"The proof is in the pudding," the Gabba curator told The Australian as the dust settled on Sunday evening.

Taking the opportunity to throw himself before the mercy of the ICC's judicial panel, Sandurski offered further admissions - all commensurate with a man that knows he will be peeling his prawns on Christmas day with a slapped wrist.

"The scorecards are there. You can't deny it. It is not good enough for a match of this magnitude," he added.

"I am obviously disappointed. No one wants a two-day Test. All the signs in preparation pointed towards it being a reasonable wicket. Two really good bowling line-ups have exposed every bit of that wicket they could."

The former MCG guardian has previously been hailed as a "progressive" and "astute" curator, labels that have respectively improved and diminished over the course of the weekend.

A result may have been found at warp speed, but by providing both hosts and guests alike a chance to play to their strengths, some honour can still be found amongst the ignominy.

The ICC will doubtlessly deem the Gabba wicket as one scaled between 'poor' or 'below average', with demerit points of some denomination to be dealt out.

Nevertheless, it appears that Sandurski's only crimes are reading the teamsheets correctly and zigging where his predecessor, Kevin Mitchell Junior, would have zagged.

In spite of the six glorious sessions that saw the game's entrenched order flipped on its head, and periods of play that saw six of the top 24 batters combine for just 171 runs, it was still a member of this oppressed batting mass (Travis Head) who earned Man of The Match honours, even after nicking off for a golden globe in the second innings.

If ever there was evidence that cricket, across all forms, is a game drawn up with the betterment of batters in mind, this here is the smoking gun.

What more is required of any bowler to earn applause, even after such faultless performances on a stage tailored to perfection?

Perhaps Sandurski could conveniently forget to service his mower next year, leaving a few more millimetres on top for good measure.

Lord knows none of his contemporaries will have the fortitude to do so.