Australia vs South Africa: Aussies pulverise the Proteas

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

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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
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (186)

    • February 16th 2014 @ 7:14am
      soapit said | February 16th 2014 @ 7:14am | ! Report

      “should you have more or less reasons to panic when the visiting side ambushes you with the cricketing equivalent of an atomic wedgie?”

      love it

      • February 16th 2014 @ 9:22am
        kombiutedriver said | February 16th 2014 @ 9:22am | ! Report

        Just the use of “atomic wedgie” in the article cracked me up ………. Absolute GOLD!

      • Roar Guru

        February 16th 2014 @ 5:09pm
        biltongbek said | February 16th 2014 @ 5:09pm | ! Report

        Yeah, that was pretty embarressing and quite pathetic from the Proteas, there is not really much more to say.

        • February 16th 2014 @ 6:03pm
          Urthor said | February 16th 2014 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

          As an Australian, pathetic is far too harsh of a word to call it.

          SA wasn’t falling over themselves with mistakes, being outplayed by a considerable margin doesn’t mean that you were bad, just that the other team was considerably better, and that’s what occurred.

          • Roar Guru

            February 16th 2014 @ 10:30pm
            biltongbek said | February 16th 2014 @ 10:30pm | ! Report

            Urthor, disagree with you, we continuously start poor in series, it is almost a given, our bowlers were poor, allowing two youngsters getting away in the first innings after taking the first four wickets early, then Smith when he went to bat looked like a kamikaze pilot looking for a ship, hitting ten runs of the first over and then thought to hit every short ball with a swing.

            He took no time to assess the bowling.

            From then on in it all went downhill fast.


            • Columnist

              February 17th 2014 @ 12:26am
              Ronan O'Connell said | February 17th 2014 @ 12:26am | ! Report

              Can’t argue with biltongbek on this one.

              • Roar Guru

                February 17th 2014 @ 12:43am
                biltongbek said | February 17th 2014 @ 12:43am | ! Report

                Now you are just going to make me cry. 😉

        • February 16th 2014 @ 8:12pm
          soapit said | February 16th 2014 @ 8:12pm | ! Report

          chin up bil, poor decision to bowl first, two amazing catches and two victims of the pitches low bounce, it all could have easily turned out a lot better. your boys stood up to the challenge at least. smiths call and the fielding (and of course mj) were the difference.

          • Roar Guru

            February 16th 2014 @ 10:28pm
            biltongbek said | February 16th 2014 @ 10:28pm | ! Report

            Agree mate, big mistake to bowl first.

            • February 16th 2014 @ 11:06pm
              Beauty of a geek brains of a bimbo(atgm) said | February 16th 2014 @ 11:06pm | ! Report

              Doent matter whether u bowl first or bat the result will always say aussie win by this aussie win by that……..

              • Roar Guru

                February 16th 2014 @ 11:14pm
                biltongbek said | February 16th 2014 @ 11:14pm | ! Report

                Beauty, enjoy your smarting comments now mate, it shows little class and even less knowledge of the game.

              • February 16th 2014 @ 11:41pm
                Beauty of a geek brains of a bimbo(atgm) said | February 16th 2014 @ 11:41pm | ! Report

                Take a chill pill mate m just kiddin nd btw i know more bout cricket than u ever will.

              • February 17th 2014 @ 12:25am
                Vic said | February 17th 2014 @ 12:25am | ! Report

                Yep right- remember 2012?

              • Columnist

                February 17th 2014 @ 12:44am
                Ronan O'Connell said | February 17th 2014 @ 12:44am | ! Report

                I’m yet to see Smith acknowledge what a mistake it was to bowl first. Instead he is continuing to condescend to Australia in much the same manner that led to South Africa being humiliated.

              • Roar Guru

                February 17th 2014 @ 9:33am
                Chris Kettlewell said | February 17th 2014 @ 9:33am | ! Report

                I agree Ronan. The idea of Smith coming out and saying that MJ’s performance was all just down to the pitch and that his figures aren’t as good as they seem because he’s just taking a lot of tail-end wickets shows no class at all and suggest someone not willing to face up to the tough questions they need to face up to in order to have any chance in the rest of this series.

                MJ decimated their batsmen, not just their tail, as he also did against England. The majority of his 49 wickets over the last 6 tests have been the top-half of the batting lineup, not the tail, and the way he went from the fast, bouncy Gabba pitch, to the slow, low Adelaide pitch and bowled even better suggests that SA better beware hoping for a pitch to negate Johnson.

                In fact, a slow pitch with less in it for the quicks is the worst thing SA could get. Since Johnson has shown the ability to perform on all sorts of surfaces, while such a pitch could seriously negate the threat of Steyn, Philander and Morkel.

              • February 17th 2014 @ 10:23am
                Jacksyd said | February 17th 2014 @ 10:23am | ! Report

                When Smith made that comment I had to rewind and replay that bit to confirm I heard it right.
                The man was obviously still in shock and unfair to have interviewed him in that state so soon after the game.
                They should have at least waited until the sedatives had set in.
                All he has done is put more pressure on himself the next time he walks out to face MJ and expect the fear in his eyes to be more evident than he showed in the 1st test, let alone the other top order batsmen MJ rattled.
                Smith will be praying he loses the toss 2nd test for very obvious reasons and if so, will say he would have chosen to bat 1st.

              • Columnist

                February 17th 2014 @ 1:20pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | February 17th 2014 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

                Smith has absolutely put more pressure on himself now when he faces MJ next. MJ has now dismissed Smith 7 times in just 9 Tests so he clearly has a big problem playing him.

              • February 17th 2014 @ 3:40pm
                ES said | February 17th 2014 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

                Especially when AB was farming the strike from JP in the first innings.

      • February 17th 2014 @ 2:40pm
        Clavers said | February 17th 2014 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

        “Atomic wedgie?!!”

        Sounds like great fun 😉

    • February 16th 2014 @ 7:17am
      soapit said | February 16th 2014 @ 7:17am | ! Report

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

      it should, earning your team two wickets essentially single handedly is significant

      • February 16th 2014 @ 7:36am
        Nudge said | February 16th 2014 @ 7:36am | ! Report

        If Warson is fit I’ve now got even stronger doubts than yesterday that he will get a game

        • February 16th 2014 @ 9:23am
          kombiutedriver said | February 16th 2014 @ 9:23am | ! Report

          But will Watson be pronounced “fit”?

        • February 16th 2014 @ 10:57am
          Sideline Comm. said | February 16th 2014 @ 10:57am | ! Report

          Honestly, something really really interesting yesterday, (which I haven’t seen too much commentary about yet) was Davey Warner bowling medium pass. He got up to over 130 kph and was quite tight. It honestly looks like he is being groomed to perhaps replace Watson as a medium pace part timer. He’s not as good a bowler as Watson, and probably won’t be, but as it is if he can be fairly economical and tie up an end, who needs Watson?
          What do people think?

          • Columnist

            February 16th 2014 @ 11:15am
            Ronan O'Connell said | February 16th 2014 @ 11:15am | ! Report

            Doolan’s catches were so good, and the result of technique and astounding reflexes not pure luck, that he may as well have bowled those deliveries himself – those two wickets were his.

            • February 16th 2014 @ 3:49pm
              Jack said | February 16th 2014 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

              I think if anybody was to make way for Watson it would be Rogers, not that I would necessarily feel happy about any player being dropped for Watson at this stage. It is almost embarrassing to see AB de Villiers in agony, nonetheless stoic and playing, while our own Shane Watson barely seems able to handle a cramp or sprained ankle. He would be awesome if he wasn’t constantly injured.

              • February 16th 2014 @ 7:38pm
                Sideline Comm. said | February 16th 2014 @ 7:38pm | ! Report

                It will not be Rogers, the man who scores the most runs out of both teams after the ten ashes games.

            • Roar Pro

              February 16th 2014 @ 9:56pm
              Luke Smyke said | February 16th 2014 @ 9:56pm | ! Report

              Ye really important point you raised Ronan, and i am really curious to see what they do with regards to Watson’s impending return. It would appear that both would be on par in the selectors eyes at this stage in terms of their batting credentials but a talented short leg is an increasingly valuable commodity.

              • Columnist

                February 17th 2014 @ 12:46am
                Ronan O'Connell said | February 17th 2014 @ 12:46am | ! Report

                Rogers is definitely safe through to the end of this series I think. But if he continues to fail he may not be on the plane to the UAE in October.

          • Roar Guru

            February 16th 2014 @ 3:34pm
            SuperEel22 said | February 16th 2014 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

            S Comm, Warner used to be a first change bowler as a teenager, batting in the middle order. He could well do the job of Watson.

            • February 16th 2014 @ 7:39pm
              Sideline Comm. said | February 16th 2014 @ 7:39pm | ! Report

              I think I’d like to see it.

            • Roar Guru

              February 17th 2014 @ 9:36am
              Chris Kettlewell said | February 17th 2014 @ 9:36am | ! Report

              He was also getting the ball to swing, which is handy. Plus someone like Warner coming on after the likes of MJ, Rhino and Sids could be someone the batsmen try and target, and if he’s bowling a tight line and length with a bit of swing that could be a dangerous thing to do.

    • February 16th 2014 @ 7:34am
      Meng said | February 16th 2014 @ 7:34am | ! Report

      Graeme Smith is not, and never has been, capable of imaginative leadership. His inability to rally the SA fielders is the clearest evidence of this. He is no different from Cook in that he relies solely on the example of his belligerent batting to set the tone for the rest of the team, although his attempted intimidation of Johnson failed spectacularly. I think it is time to accuse the South Africans of taking Australia a bit too lightly. SA will be very easy to beat if they do not respect Australia.

      • February 16th 2014 @ 9:51am
        ChrisB said | February 16th 2014 @ 9:51am | ! Report

        Not sure I’d picture Cook as a belligerent batsman, even in 2010/11 form.

        • Columnist

          February 16th 2014 @ 11:18am
          Ronan O'Connell said | February 16th 2014 @ 11:18am | ! Report

          He’s also similar to Cook in that he seems to just assume that his side’s veteran superstars will eventually find a way to win or draw the match regardless so why bother with proactive tactics?

          Now that has worked for him because with Kallis there they had one of the most talented teams in history. The times they have come unstuck have been when an aggressive side has really taken them on – like Aus in 2009 and 2011.

          • February 16th 2014 @ 11:57am
            Howzat said | February 16th 2014 @ 11:57am | ! Report

            After Brisbane Cook made the point that his team has ability to fight back – pointing out that that had lost their first test in India and come back to win the series.

            Smith has pointed out that his team lost their first against Pakistan and then came back to win the series.

            Some interesting parallels between the two,

            • Roar Guru

              February 17th 2014 @ 6:43am
              Jack Smith said | February 17th 2014 @ 6:43am | ! Report

              Pakistan though….big difference between coming back against Australia and “The Bull” Johnson then Pakistan.

              • Roar Guru

                February 17th 2014 @ 9:38am
                Chris Kettlewell said | February 17th 2014 @ 9:38am | ! Report

                Plus, losing a test and being completely hammered (not just losing by 280 runs, but doing that after a 4-down declaration by Australia makes that effectively a significantly bigger win, similar to many of the Ashes results).

              • Columnist

                February 17th 2014 @ 1:21pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | February 17th 2014 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

                Exactly Jack

        • February 16th 2014 @ 3:22pm
          Beauty of a geek brains of a bimbo(atgm) said | February 16th 2014 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

          ‘Graeme Smith is not, and never has been, capable of imaginative leadership’
          i dnt think that theres anybody else apart from clarke who falls under the catagory of imaginative captain atm atleast.possibly b.mcullum to some extent.the others are leader of men e.g msd,cook,smith etc.

          • February 16th 2014 @ 9:06pm
            Adam said | February 16th 2014 @ 9:06pm | ! Report

            I’d have to throw Stephen Fleming in as an imaginative captain. With a relatively weaker side compared to most nations was very competitive with clever captaincy

            • February 16th 2014 @ 11:47pm
              Beauty of a geek brains of a bimbo(atgm) said | February 16th 2014 @ 11:47pm | ! Report

              Yup better captain than ponting,msd imo.

              • Columnist

                February 17th 2014 @ 12:48am
                Ronan O'Connell said | February 17th 2014 @ 12:48am | ! Report

                Fleming was a terrific captain, always thinking a few overs ahead.

          • Roar Guru

            February 17th 2014 @ 9:42am
            Chris Kettlewell said | February 17th 2014 @ 9:42am | ! Report

            Clarke is definitely the best captain in World cricket at the moment.

            Many wickets that fall where you think “the batsman was unlucky, they hit that right off the middle but picked out the fieldsman” are actually examples of great captaincy. The place Doolan took that catch off Smith is not where the short leg would normally be. He was put in that exact spot for an exact reason and the catch went there. There were so many cases of this in the Ashes too, where Clarke just got the fielding positions exactly right, gave the instructions to the bowlers as to what to bowl, and it was all executed perfectly.

            I’m sure in this there is a lot of help from backroom staff doing analysis and providing information to help Clarke make those decisions, but every test team has those people, and nobody manages to implement those plans the way Clarke has managed it.

            It helps that his bowlers have been able to execute the plans very well too! No good having plans and setting fields if the bowlers can’t bowl the right balls.

    • February 16th 2014 @ 7:41am
      Andrew said | February 16th 2014 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      Maybe an unchanged lineup for the Aussies now they have an extra day to rest. Give Watson another test to try and get his body right as I want him to be able to bowl more than a couple of overs. P.S well played Aussies!

    • Roar Guru

      February 16th 2014 @ 8:02am
      Renegade said | February 16th 2014 @ 8:02am | ! Report

      What happened to all the people who stated “look at the aussies getting carried away because they beat England 5-0…. they’ll get smoked in SA”.

      I’ve said it since the end of the 2012 summer…. this side will be number one by 2015 and will win the upcoming world cup.

      I hate to brag but, DAMN we’re good!! Took apart the best side in the world in every aspect of the game on their home soil.

      • Roar Guru

        February 16th 2014 @ 8:30am
        Jack Smith said | February 16th 2014 @ 8:30am | ! Report

        Indeed. I believed in us to beat England and I also have a bet with my dad that we will in 2-1, he says 1-1. Think we’ll both be wrong:3-0.
        Regardless, Australia is on a train that doesn’t know where the buffer is.

      • February 16th 2014 @ 8:51am
        Rob JM said | February 16th 2014 @ 8:51am | ! Report

        Not Good yet, Just lucky.
        Lucky that the 6th best bowler in australia got a game only to discover he was in the best form of any bowler for a decade.
        Lucky we picked two under performing batsmen due to necessity who went on to score important runs.
        We will be good when we can loose our best players and still look and perform like it doesn’t matter.

        • February 16th 2014 @ 4:06pm
          Jack said | February 16th 2014 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

          I do think we’re fortunate that Jacques Kallis retired in December of last year, but a lot of credit also has to go to the formidable coaching and player selection of Darren Lehmann. The current Australian line-up is excellent; we actually have a team that looks menacing and the fun they’re clearly having at winning is electric.

          • Roar Guru

            February 17th 2014 @ 9:45am
            Chris Kettlewell said | February 17th 2014 @ 9:45am | ! Report

            Kallis made a very good decision, seeing how Johnson was bowling and wanting to retire on his own terms instead of being retired by MJ who has put him in the hospital before when he was at his peak, and Kallis was definitely getting past his best, facing a rampant MJ is not something that he needed to be attempting.

        • February 16th 2014 @ 9:07pm
          Adam said | February 16th 2014 @ 9:07pm | ! Report

          Take the best players out of any side and they will struggle

      • Roar Rookie

        February 16th 2014 @ 9:09am
        Passionate_Aussie said | February 16th 2014 @ 9:09am | ! Report

        You’re a genius! I also said that MJ would come back and ruin everyone!

        • Columnist

          February 16th 2014 @ 11:32am
          Ronan O'Connell said | February 16th 2014 @ 11:32am | ! Report

          How long before we start hearing people talking down Australia’s win here because “South Africa were just very bad rather than Australia being very good”.

          A lot of people have reimagined the Ashes as though Australia just mauled a weak, vulnerable opponent rather than breaking a stable, veteran outfit before eating them alive.

          • February 16th 2014 @ 11:53am
            AlanKC said | February 16th 2014 @ 11:53am | ! Report

            Ronan, I can already see the “SA team had merely been papering over the cracks for some time” comments appearing.

            Generally it’s winners rewriting history but not in cricket, apparently.

          • Roar Rookie

            February 16th 2014 @ 12:38pm
            Passionate_Aussie said | February 16th 2014 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

            What are you talking about Ronan?

          • Roar Guru

            February 17th 2014 @ 9:49am
            Chris Kettlewell said | February 17th 2014 @ 9:49am | ! Report

            I agree Ronan. I wrote an article on here about that myself. I’d seen so many comments exactly like that with the Ashes, and anyone who tried to claim Australia were really that good were just shouted down by all the people saying “it was just England and we’ve got SA next to put Australia back in their place”. I picked up a cricket magazine in the newsagent that was for the 2013/2014 season previewing the Ashes and it was amazing to read through such a thing that basically went through everything and came out with England being dominant in every aspect of the game and it was hard to see Australia really competing, let alone winning.

            But after the result suddenly all the talk is as if we’d just hammered Bangladesh or something.

            • Columnist

              February 17th 2014 @ 1:27pm
              Ronan O'Connell said | February 17th 2014 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

              Exactly Chris it is very annoying the way so many people are trying to devalue Australia’s 5-0 Ashes thumping.

              They had just come off a 3-0 Ashes loss and were playing a side who had SEVEN players – Cook, Bell, Pietersen, Swann, Broad, Prior and Anderson – who are all-time greats for their country. SEVEN.

              England were a talented, settled, confident, proven side and they got absolutely destroyed.

    • February 16th 2014 @ 8:24am
      BennO said | February 16th 2014 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      practice makes perfect?

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