South Africa vs Australia

During the drubbing of the English cricket team during the last Ashes test, I made the following observation of the Australian team:

Despite their success, this team has yet to demonstrate it can follow even a modest first innings total or bat a second innings from behind, and their bowlers have not had to bowl sixth and seventh spells.  In such circumstances, Warner’s shot selection, Harris’ knee, Clarke’s back, Watson’s suitability at N0.3, and Johnson’s consistency will all be severely tested in a manner they were not in this series.  It remains to be seen whether Australia’s ultra-aggressive brand of cricket will serve them as well in future as it has for this series, but I suspect it will not.

Firstly, I was partially wrong.  I thought the South African batsmen would make short work of the Australian bowlers, but they were blown away by Mitchell Johnson in the first test, ably supported by the very same bowlers who had performed so well against England.  Having won the toss and bizarrely choosing to bowl first, Graeme Smith gifted Australia the chance to start this series in the manner which served them so well in the last: bat first, rack up a huge score, skittle the opposition.  I was also wrong in that Australia – who have a very good record in South Africa – were able to bowl out a very strong batting lineup cheaply, not once but twice, and bat against the likes of Steyn and Morkel.

However, crucially they were under no scoreboard pressure at any point, and finally – in the second test at Port Elizabeth – Australia lost the toss, were told to bowl, and subsequently were required to walk out to bat 423 runs behind after bowling 150 overs and watching two South Africans score centuries.  As I expected, Australia lurched to 246 as their top order largely failed – although Warner’s capability surprised me, scoring 70.  Brad Haddin, the batting hero of the Ashes, was bowled for 9.  South Africa piled on another 270 and with an eye on the fifth day weather forecast declared with a lead of 448.  Once again Warner lasted longer than I expected against Steyn with the new ball, although an aggressive 66 was not really what was required under the circumstances.  Rogers, who I always quite liked, went on to score 107 while the rest of the team amassed a whopping 24 runs between the whole lot of them, losing 9 wickets in the final session of the day.  South Africa won by 231 runs.

South Africa bounced back from their first test trouncing in a manner which England had no hope of doing in Australia following the Brisbane test.  There is a reason why South Africa is the number one ranked test side in the world, and a reason why talks of this Australian team being great are premature.  If Graeme Smith wins the toss at the final test, he’ll know what to do.

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12 Responses to South Africa vs Australia

  1. TNA says:

    I suppose even with this Achilles’ Heel, they could still theoretically win 50% of test matches. That’s an English dream at the moment.

  2. Bardon says:

    It’s good to have a bit of competition again, but the swing in form between the two tests has been drastic, match fixing drastic. The only thing I don’t know is who may have been got at. I cant find any info on the Saffers wages and judging by their crowd sizes its not derived from bums on grass seats.

  3. Oh, it is certainly premature to talk of this being a great Australian side. They were getting thrashed all over the place nine months ago, and there is much to prove. They are much improved though.

    Two other things: Australia’s record against South Africa in recent years has been much better than Australia’s record against England. They have lost a couple of series, yes, but they were very hard fought series that Australia lost in the end. Australia have not lost a series in South Africa since 1969. The last two series: Australia won one and drew one. This is Australian side is stronger than either of those sides. South Africa fear Australia in a way that England didn’t fear Australia. This is why Smith made the mistake he did at the toss in the first test – he was intimidated by playing Australia.

    Secondly, I think you badly underestimate Warner as a batsmen. Several years ago, he got exactly the sort of criticism form the Australian cricket establishment as he got from you over the summer. The perception was that he was a 2o over player who smashed at the ball without much thought, and it was generally considered that he would not play test cricket from Australia. It was only when he played a whole series of innings in both twenty over and first class cricket that were much more thoughtful than he was perceived as being capable of playing that he fought his way into the test side. His subsequent test centuries have actually been a mixture of smash and bash innings and more thoughtful slower innings. You personally wouldn’t have seen this, as you were unlikely to be following Australian domestic teams, and you were probably watching Australia less when they were not playing England, but it happened.

  4. Tim Newman says:

    @TNA:

    Absolutely: Australia are streets ahead of England at the moment. I can’t see where the next test win is going to come from.

  5. Tim Newman says:

    @Michael Jennings:

    Secondly, I think you badly underestimate Warner as a batsmen.

    You are probably right, he is better than I give him credit for. I just don’t like him much, which probably colours my judgement, but I will grant you he has played some fine innings and is proving himself more and more with each match.

  6. Bardon says:

    Congratulations to David Warner on his very well deserved century which he achieved today at Cape Town.

  7. Tim Newman says:

    Yup, Warner’s been busy proving me wrong. Having on the toss and batted first, Aus are looking strong in this match. Will be interesting to see how SA respond with the bat.

  8. Australia hit back after South Africa hit back. Battles between these two sides are always like that. Interesting to see how many Clarke can score here – he’s had a little bit of a dry patch and is probably enjoying scoring some runs.

  9. And after three days, Australia took a big first innings lead and are looking to set a target, and bowl South Africa out a second time. I don’t know what is going to happen from here, but the most likely result is that Australia do that and win the series 2-1. If that happens, all three tests will have gone the same way: the side batting first has managed to score runs, their bowlers have managed to bowl the opposition out for much less, and they have then pushed for victory. This makes you think that in these conditions and between these two sides, batting first pretty much decides the match. Possibly Smith’s decision to send Australia in at Centurian was the crucial event of the series.

    It’s not over yet, of course, so these comments are possibly premature.

  10. Bardon says:

    Congratulations to Australia in winning the South African series in a nail biting test match finish against what looked like a formidable defence.

    What a summer for the Aussies, one in which they have taken more scalps than Geronimo!

  11. Once again, a million times more fight from South Africa than from England. Australia bowled really well on the final day, and the South Africans almost held out regardless. And then Ryan Harris managed to pull two terrific 90mph yorkers in three balls right at the death. Really good effort by the Australians to win this series.

    Australia’s next test series is away to Pakistan, played in the UAE. I was quite hopeful going into this series in South Africa, but I suspect we have next to no chance in that one.

  12. Bardon says:

    Yes this was a very tight series alright, during the late stages yesterday I was kind of missing the trusty old English tail enders.

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