Australia face a sterner test against South Africa

Josh Conway Roar Rookie

By Josh Conway, Josh Conway is a Roar Rookie

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    Australia's Ashes winning side from 2013. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

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    Australia were good in the recent Ashes series. They surprised me and they surprised the cricketing world after their domination of England.

    But make no mistake, Michael Clarke’s men face a much sterner Test against South Africa on their own turf.

    England arrived Down Under confident, if not a touch arrogant, thinking everything would fall into place for another English Ashes victory. Mitchell Johnson put rest to that. By Sydney, England were absolutely mentally shot.

    The way they collapsed on the third afternoon like a club side spoke volumes. Australia verbally and physically targeted England, especially the tail a la the great West Indies teams of years gone.

    Bouncers by the Australian bowlers rattled the English tail to virtual submission. At times it was brutal and cringe worthy. Darren Lehmann has stated after the Ashes that he sees no reason why that bouncer tactic won’t continue in Africa.

    Fair enough. But when they try to bounce Dale Steyn, the Australians will know he’ll dish it back tenfold.

    Approach with caution.

    Staying with the Australian bowlers, even though they have the brimstone and lightning of Johnson, the attack essentially relies on relenting accuracy, not too dissimilar to England’s mantra of 2010-11, although they didn’t have the trump card of someone like Mitchell Johnson.

    Mitchell Johnson bowls in three or four over spells, while Clarke can rotate Ryan Harris who is a bit quicker than you think.

    He can then bring on Peter Siddle, who is unrelenting with his seam movement and handing the ball to Shane Watson – who can bowl the driest spells ever.

    He can then bring Johnson back to rattle some more birdcages.

    Johnson had improved his accuracy from series gone by in this Ashes series, which again helps that suffocating pressure the other bowlers build up.

    England’s run rate frequently hovered around two and a half in the series, and while their batting wasn’t as aggressive as it should’ve been, Australia didn’t give them anything to hit.

    This is where a clear mind and a more aggressive mentality will help South Africa. In essence, they know what’s coming. Bouncers from Johnson at pace, fast swingers on a good length from Harris, and little nibblers from Siddle and Watson.

    It is imperative then, that the South African batsman look to score against one of these bowlers, and attack them. England’s shot selection let them down more than anything, playing rash strokes or poor foot movement bringing their downfall.

    South African batsman, on their own surfaces, shouldn’t make the same mistakes.

    They also need to get after Nathan Lyon.

    Although the tweeker has improved, he did take five wickets at the MCG without turning one ball.

    Again, the mentally fragile state of the English line-up went towards this.

    The English often ‘sat’ on Lyon, just dead batting him.

    Meanwhile, Graeme Swann was battered and belted to an early retirement.

    If South Africa attack Lyon, it’ll force Clarke to bring Johnson on earlier than he needs, and force Harris and Watson into extra spells, which with their fragile bodies is dangerous.

    On Australia’s batting side of things, they will be tested too, because the South African wickets move laterally more than most, which doesn’t help Australia’s already feeble first innings efforts.

    If it weren’t for Brad Haddin, Australia might’ve only passed 200 a couple of times in the series.

    But against the best attack, the best team in the world, they won’t be allowed such generosity.

    If you manage to see off Dale Steyn’s fast hoopers, you then have to face Vernon Philander’s nagging seamers, and then finally Morne Morkel’s steepling bounce.

    The retirement of Kallis will hurt, but two years ago Australia was skittled for 47 against the same attack.

    Two handy bats in Ponting and Hussey were part of that collapse. If faced with the same situation, can lesser batsman like Steve Smith and George Bailey do a better job? It is a daunting question they have to ask themselves.

    It is also worth noting that in the last 15 months, Steyn, Philander and Morkel have bowled opponents out for under 50 on three separate occasions (Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan).

    Frightening.

    Australia do have a couple of saving graces in Robin Peterson and South Africa’s mentality.

    Peterson looks to dry up an end with his left arm orthodox rather than spinning a web.

    If they can attack someone of Swann’s calibre, Peterson will be no troubles.

    The number one team in the world recently fell 14 runs short of a world record run chase against India, choosing to block the remaining overs for a draw with three wickets in the shed rather than make history.

    Michael Clarke and Australian teams are almost allergic to that sort of thinking, so that will play on the South African minds, and give Australia a boost.

    That said, David Warner still has no overseas hundreds, and only two first innings hundreds. While his feet are David Warner’s feet, they will be tested every day he bats.

    Shane Watson, while important, is bloody frustrating, an unfulfilled potential and has a bulging front pad. Vernon Philander eat your heart out.

    Steve Smith, who is a much improved batsman, still has a see ball hit ball mentality, so he either makes runs, or fails. There is no in between. He needs to make it.

    And George Bailey, well, he might not even be there. Or he could be Australia’s next Test captain if Clarke’s back calls it a day. Either prospect is daunting.

    So, while Australia were ultra-impressive against England and could well do it again in South Africa, they would be wise to be on their toes, because South Africa are number one for a reason.

    Smith, Amla and De Villiers are some of the world’s best, and won’t bat like England, and their bowlers won’t bowl like England. It will be tough for Australia. It shapes as a good’un.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • Roar Guru

      January 12th 2014 @ 5:45am
      ak said | January 12th 2014 @ 5:45am | ! Report

      South African batsmen have a more difficult task as the Australian bowling will be a lot better than the pedestrian Indian attack. But Steyn & Co will have it easier to have a go at the Australian batsmen rather than face the likes of Pujara & Kohli.

    • Roar Guru

      January 12th 2014 @ 6:56am
      Corne Van Vuuren said | January 12th 2014 @ 6:56am | ! Report

      Good article Josh.

      Few points though.

      South African mentality? Blocking with three wickets in hand?

      Firstly the two batsman left in the hut was an injured Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir, going for those few runs once DuPlessis was out and India bowling short and wide deliveries there was little need to block. If Steyn wanted to make contact on the ball he would have had to swing his bat at wide balls outside off stump.

      Sure the adventurous would have all creamed themselves and patted each other on the back whether SA succeeded or failed as long as they chased the score. Sure it would have been an achievement if they broke the record for the fourth innings chase.

      But they had other things on their mind, trusting that they had the ability to come back at Durban to win the series, they ultimately gave up the chase after being in it for the most part of the fifteh day.

      I find it strange that nobody is criticising India for not going for the three wickets. They knew full well onevmore wicket would bring an injured Morkel and the bunny Tahir to the wicket, instead they chose to bowl negatively, wanting SA to take risks for scant reward.

      Robin Peterson your saving Grace?

      I would like to remind you that Lyon’s statistics aren’t a lot better with the ball than Peterson’s

      There is but a difference of 2.5 balls per wicket and 4 runs per wicket in it.

      • January 13th 2014 @ 1:08pm
        Armchair expert said | January 13th 2014 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

        I remember Clarke struggling against Peterson’s bowling in the Perth test a year ago

    • Roar Guru

      January 12th 2014 @ 8:28am
      JGK said | January 12th 2014 @ 8:28am | ! Report

      The 47 all out for Aust is a bit of a furphy. SAf themselves had just lost 9/47 as well in that match. Clearly for that bizarre session something weird was going on with the conditions, pitch whatever.

    • Roar Guru

      January 12th 2014 @ 10:49am
      Hossey said | January 12th 2014 @ 10:49am | ! Report

      Steyn, Philander and Morkel is a pace attack to be feared and the batting lineup is still very strong minus Kallis, who I would have loved to see stick around for our tour.

      It’s very evenly matched. The lack of a genuine Test spinner could help or hinder the Saffas. If they pick one who isnt up to standard, the Aussies will have easy runs, but if they go with four pronged pace, they take away Clarke, Haddin and Smith’s favourite way to score.

    • January 12th 2014 @ 4:17pm
      felix said | January 12th 2014 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

      Petersen is not stupid if you try hit him out of the park he’ll change the field and his bowling,Australia dont have a Gilchrist anymore who could pop it over the boundary consistently,its more likely AB,Smith or Amla and co will go after Lyon ;-).

    • January 13th 2014 @ 8:25pm
      Blue said | January 13th 2014 @ 8:25pm | ! Report

      This article makes it blatantly clear that the author did not understand the match situation so he probably did not watch the match hence it is a pile of drivel.

      Based on most blogs, deep and meaningful insights from the obligatory ex-players and fans in general, the ARU should save money and send Michael Clarke to SA to pick up the trophy. Oh hang on, he will only fly Business. Send the baggage master. Cattle class.

      Biggest walk over this is going to be. I won’t bother watching. Just ask Matt Hayden and the other Waugh brother.

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