Australia vs South Africa: Aussies pulverise the Proteas

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The sweet taste of success continues for the Aussies against South Africa.

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Australia inflicted one of South Africa’s heaviest losses in Test history to grab a 1-0 series lead in the first Test at Centurion yesterday.

Despite predictions the number one side in the world would not meekly surrender on home soil, the Proteas’ embarrassment only heightened on day four.

After an aggressive, early declaration from Clarke, South Africa lost wickets at regular intervals en route to being bowled out for 200.

Australia’s mammoth 281-run run victory will have sent tremors through not just the South African camp but the entire cricketing community.

The boys in baggy green are back and they are hunting heads.

Talking tactics
Something must give.

When you are mercilessly dissected by an opponent on home soil it always necessitates change.

Change to tactics, change to mindset, change to personnel.

As the top-ranked Test team in the world by a significant margin, should you have more or less reasons to panic when the visiting side ambushes you with the cricketing equivalent of an atomic wedgie?

The composed, calculated response would be to remember your phenomenal record, resist the urge to revamp the side and back the men who you believed to be the best eleven cricketers in the country merely days ago.

The skittish, hasty response would be to renovate your line-up in the hope those alterations would provide the spark you require to best a marauding opponent.

Most South African fans taking to social media sites and forums are demanding the latter approach be employed.

It is understandable.

When your side capitulates in such a horrendous manner it is natural to want to extract your pound of flesh in the form of dumping players deemed guilty for the underperformance.

Yet the reality is that it was not the likes of Ryan McLaren or JP Duminy who were the leading villains in this cartoonishly-inept display by the Proteas.

They are the players most commonly being blamed by South African fans.

Instead the spotlight should be shining intensely on established stars Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Hashim Amla and, most of all, skipper Graeme Smith.

The combative Smith not only flopped twice at the top of the order, prematurely exposing his teammates to the ballistic assaults of Mitchell Johnson, he also failed in his duties as a leader.

Robin Peterson’s left-arm spin may be modest, but the veteran tweaker has no hope of making an impact when he starts his spells with defensive fields in place.

As if reading over the shoulder of crestfallen English captain Alastair Cook, Smith was too swift to go negative in the wake of a whiff of Australian aggression.

South Africa boast a talent-laden side but, if they persist to play England-style safety-first cricket, they will be devoured by this bullish Australian team.

It is that mental approach which needs to be altered more desperately than their line-up.

Debate of the day
How heavily should a player’s fielding ability be weighted when considering team selections?

Certainly in limited overs cricket there is a strong emphasis on fielding, the execution of which can make or break a player’s career.

Yet it is rarely discussed, publicly at least, as a factor when scrutinising the possible makeup of a Test side.

We witnessed on Friday what a resounding impact fielding can have on the course of a five-day match.

A succession of bungled opportunities allowed David Warner to sprint to a ton, in the process stomping on South Africa’s hopes.

When the Australian selectors convene to mull over the potential return of injured all-rounder Shane Watson, will debutant Alex Doolan’s performance be analysed purely in terms of runs?

Or will his two stunning catches, which effectively killed off the South African resistance yesterday, feature prominently in the analysis?

Given that Marsh simply filled the place of Watson at first slip this Test, does that mean he is a more replaceable and therefore less valuable fieldsman?

If Watson does return for the second Test at Port Elizabeth, Marsh would not be needed in the cordon.

So then, will that go against him when the selectors consider the freakish ability of Doolan at short leg?

After all, catches are the core element which dictate cricket results.

Hang on, isn’t there is a similar, more precise saying?

Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for more than a decade, including 9 years at daily papers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco
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