Much has been made of the pace attacks of Australia and South Africa.
The upcoming series will determine which attack is the world’s best.
Mitch Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle against Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, and most dangerously, Dale Steyn.
It is sure to be a thrilling contest.
However, there is a significant difference between Australia and South Africa.
This is a difference made even greater by the grounds at which the Test matches will be played.
Three grounds will host matches: St. George’s Park, Newlands, and Centurion.
Only Centurion traditionally resembles anything like the Gabba or WACA. Newlands and St. George’s Park are spinners’ grounds.
Here, the difference between the teams is made clear. South Africa don’t have a quality spinner. Australia does.
Nathan Lyon is better than any spinner South Africa have produced since their readmission to cricket.
Certainly better than any of Imran Tahir and Robin Peterson.
Lyon has a better average, SR and ER than either of South Africa’s tweakers.
Lyon: Av: 32.52, SR: 63.5, ER: 3.07 versus Tahir: 43.08, 72.8, 3.54 and Peterson: 36.57, 66, 3.32.
This has been overlooked by most commentators. Most people have been predicting a titanic clash between the two pace attacks.
While pace will be the main source of wickets, the difference in the spin department will prove the difference between the sides.
South Africa’s best batsmen struggle against spin. AB De Villiers and Hashim Amla both average in the low 30s against spin, 20 runs below their career average. Expect Australia to exploit this. Lyon performed above expectations in the Ashes, on pitches less helpful to spin than what will be offered in South Africa.
Despite doom and gloom predictions of Australia’s fragile batting line-up having collapse after collapse, this is unlikely to occur.
The nature of the Newlands and Port Elizabeth pitches means that it the pace attacks will have to work for their wickets, whereas the spinners will be assisted with theirs. South Africa’s lack of a quality spinner will be exposed on these wickets.
Nathan Lyon will be the difference between these two evenly matched sides. Expect a big series from him.