Spin and reverse swing on menu in Port Elizabeth

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Spin and reverse swing again loom as the biggest factors in the second Test between Australia and South Africa starting tomorrow in Port Elizabeth.

    Leading into this four-Test battle there was a sense the pitches may well be juicy after the Proteas served up two green monsters in their recent series against India.

    Instead the surface for the first Test at Durban was unusually dry and abrasive, offering great assistance to the spinners and allowing both teams to gain reverse swing from quite early on in each innings.

    By comparison, it won’t come as a surprise if the Port Elizabeth pitch is parched and spin-friendly as this is its natural state. Port Elizabeth has long been the best Test venue for spinners in South Africa, and has also fostered many remarkable displays of reverse swing bowling.

    One such spell was delivered by Proteas champion Dale Steyn the last time these two teams met in Port Elizabeth four years ago. Australia were 3-153 in their second innings when Steyn gutted their innings, dismissing Michael Clarke, Steve Smith and Brad Haddin in a matter of overs.

    Steyn had the ball reversing in both directions, leaving the Australian batsmen flummoxed and leading South Africa to a thumping 231-run win. Spin also played a major role in that Test.

    Australia’s tweakers took eight wickets, with Nathan Lyon snaring six wickets amid a massive workload of 63 overs and part-timers Steve Smith and Michael Clarke each making one breakthrough.

    Nathan Lyon

    Meanwhile, in the most recent Test at Port Elizabeth three months ago, SA spinner Keshav Maharaj ran amok with 5-59 in the second innings as the Proteas thumped Zimbabwe.

    The left armer troubled all of the Australian batsmen on a favourable surface at Durban en route to nine wickets for the match.

    He again looks likely to be a central figure in the second Test if the pitch plays true to form. Crucially, Maharaj shapes as the bowler most capable of working over Smith, the world’s number 1 Test batsman. After years of opponents searching for a chink in Smith’s armour the first Test left no doubt it is left arm spin which challenges him the most.

    The Australian skipper was caught behind while trying to cut Maharaj in the first innings at Durban, and then trapped LBW by part-time left-armer Dean Elgar in the second dig. Not long before being dismissed by Elgar Smith had escaped a perilously close LBW shout against Maharaj.

    If reverse swing becomes a significant factor then the Proteas will look to pace prodigy Kagiso Rabada to make the most of this movement. Rabada is SA’s go-to reverse swing bowler in the same way that Australia love to throw a weathered ball to Starc.

    The Aussie left armer matched Maharaj’s wicket-haul at Durban and was particularly brutal against the SA tail.

    In the first innings Starc sliced through the Proteas’ lower-order with a spell of 3-2, and in the second dig Starc finished off the Proteas with a three-wicket maiden.

    Starc looks like being the danger man for the Proteas across this whole series, as my Roar colleague Glenn Mitchell detailed this week.

    Nathan Lyon was always going to be a key player at Port Elizabeth given its history of aiding spinners. But the Australian off-spinner will need to rebound from a disappointing second innings at Durban, where he went wicketless in 32 overs.

    As that innings progressed, Lyon fell into the old habit of rushing through his overs, and duly lost the tantalising loop that has made him one of the world’s leading Test cricketers over the past year.

    Australia will be hoping Lyon can relax and regain that teasing flight. It is he and Starc who seem as though they will be most suited to the Port Elizabeth conditions.

    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 (60)

    • March 8th 2018 @ 5:36am
      sportsfan305 said | March 8th 2018 @ 5:36am | ! Report

      I’d play lungi ingidi place of theunis de bruin,his action brings with it reverse swing and south africa is back to the 5 bowler formula ottis gibson likes in his protea team…south africa would like some payback but let the results do the talking…too bad steyn will feature in game 3 PE would have been an epic return DAMN!!!

      • March 8th 2018 @ 7:05am
        Jameswm said | March 8th 2018 @ 7:05am | ! Report

        You mean make the tail longer? Mitch Starc would be licking his lips at that prospect.

        It does sound like the wicket will favour Australia.

        As for Smith, he seemed to be dominating Maharaj most of the time, but he plays looser against him than he does against the quicks. He plays more get out shots. He needs to treat spinners with the same respect he does the quicks.

        • Roar Guru

          March 8th 2018 @ 9:55am
          JamesH said | March 8th 2018 @ 9:55am | ! Report

          That’s been Smith’s problem for a while. Everyone raves about what a good player of spin he is but he frequently gets himself out playing rash shots against spinners.

          • Roar Guru

            March 8th 2018 @ 11:55am
            The Bush said | March 8th 2018 @ 11:55am | ! Report

            That’s my memory of Mark Waugh’s career too – “best footwork in the game”, “amazing against spin” etc, but yet constantly got out to spinners.

            • March 8th 2018 @ 12:04pm
              jameswm said | March 8th 2018 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

              Mark Waugh later admitted he had no respect for offies, and they were there to be smashed.

              • Roar Guru

                March 8th 2018 @ 2:47pm
                JamesH said | March 8th 2018 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

                Doesn’t stop him raving about Chris Green and Arjun Nair tho!

          • March 9th 2018 @ 1:29am
            Don Freo said | March 9th 2018 @ 1:29am | ! Report

            Happy for Smith to get out to spinners if he keeps averaging 62. Spinners won’t win many games like that.

      • March 8th 2018 @ 9:35am
        Ouch said | March 8th 2018 @ 9:35am | ! Report

        I agree with James. The SA tail will be even longer and that plays into Oz’s hands. Why get rid of De Bruyn? Along with Markand and De Villiers, he was the only SA batsman to show any ticker.

        • Roar Guru

          March 8th 2018 @ 10:02am
          Ryan H said | March 8th 2018 @ 10:02am | ! Report

          Yeah de Bruyn was pretty gritty, he won’t come out of the team surely. For someone who I don’t think is up to it at test level, he might be able to prove me wrong. They have to back him and play him at number six however, with de Kock at seven.

        • March 8th 2018 @ 11:58am
          DaveJ said | March 8th 2018 @ 11:58am | ! Report

          To show any ticker? You mean getting out is not showing ticker? I don’t think anyone would say Elgar or du Plessis don’t have ticker. Everyone was amazed when Cummins got through Faf’s forward defence, had to be the perfect ball.

          • March 8th 2018 @ 12:13pm
            Ouch said | March 8th 2018 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

            Yes Dave, thats exactly what i mean. Not getting out and scoring runs. Its a pretty easy concept to grasp.

            • March 8th 2018 @ 12:20pm
              Ouch said | March 8th 2018 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

              If it makes you happy Dave we can call it application and grit. De Bruyn showed grit and application that most of the other SA batsman, except Markand and De Villiers, didn’t.

              • March 9th 2018 @ 1:32am
                Don Freo said | March 9th 2018 @ 1:32am | ! Report

                I can’t say I was amazed when Cummins got through Faf’s defence. I expected it.

      • Columnist

        March 8th 2018 @ 10:07am
        Ronan O'Connell said | March 8th 2018 @ 10:07am | ! Report

        Ngidi should play, but in place of Morkel, who was very poor for most of the 1st Test.

        There’s no way that SA will drop a batsman to pick another bowler after the way Starc smashed their tail at Durban.

        • Roar Guru

          March 8th 2018 @ 11:55am
          The Bush said | March 8th 2018 @ 11:55am | ! Report

          That’d be a sad way for Morkel to end his career; no fairy tales in sport.

        • March 8th 2018 @ 12:00pm
          DaveJ said | March 8th 2018 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

          It’s bizarre they even tried it against India. 5 bowlers only makes sense if you are desperate or need an extra spinner, not a paceman.

          • March 8th 2018 @ 12:04pm
            jameswm said | March 8th 2018 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

            5 bowlers on a road maybe. Otherwise no way.

    • March 8th 2018 @ 6:12am
      Simon said | March 8th 2018 @ 6:12am | ! Report

      Can’t wait to see how the Aussies back up from the first Test. So much distraction.

      • March 8th 2018 @ 7:24am
        Flemo said | March 8th 2018 @ 7:24am | ! Report

        Aussies will be fine as long as SA don’t make any more personal attacks on players, warner should not have to take attack on his wife

        • Roar Rookie

          March 8th 2018 @ 8:20am
          Simon Brown said | March 8th 2018 @ 8:20am | ! Report

          I hope you’re spot on!

        • March 8th 2018 @ 8:37am
          John Erichsen said | March 8th 2018 @ 8:37am | ! Report

          As if Warner didn’t make any personal attacks… Rose coloured glasses staring from an ivory tower perhaps

        • March 8th 2018 @ 10:25am
          Roostermark said | March 8th 2018 @ 10:25am | ! Report

          It was Probably the same old toilet incident bought up again..He has to get over it, it happened and played out throughout the media so he has to expect it.

        • Roar Guru

          March 8th 2018 @ 11:54am
          The Bush said | March 8th 2018 @ 11:54am | ! Report

          There’s plenty of pages to talk about this elsewhere, let’s discuss the cricket here.

      • March 9th 2018 @ 1:36am
        Don Freo said | March 9th 2018 @ 1:36am | ! Report

        There wouldn’t have been much distraction for them.

        Lots of distraction for cricket writers and social media but the cricketers would just be business as usual.

    • Roar Guru

      March 8th 2018 @ 8:52am
      The Bush said | March 8th 2018 @ 8:52am | ! Report

      It’s funny how scheduling works. When this was all planned a few months ago, I just can’t see why you’d play into the tourists hands and pick a spinning venue when the one clear area Australia has/had an advantage is in spin.

      Hopefully it’s a cracking test. It’d be nice to see Ussie score some runs, but it doesn’t sound like this is his deck. Instead it sounds like Smith and maybe S Marsh should score well?

      • Columnist

        March 8th 2018 @ 10:05am
        Ronan O'Connell said | March 8th 2018 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        Bush if this pitch is spin-friendly then this Test could have a massive influence on Khawaja’s Test future.

        The selectors showed their concerns about his play against spin overseas by leaving him out of the India Test tour and then dropping him in Bangladesh.

        He failed in the first Test on a spin-friendly deck, if he does so again in this second Test I’d say he is zero chance of being picked for the 3-Test tour in the UAE 12 months from now.

        At that stage of his career, rising 33 years old, it will be very hard for him to then fight his way back into the team again, and he could easily miss the 2019 Ashes that follows the UAE series.

        • March 8th 2018 @ 11:44am
          Christo the Daddyo said | March 8th 2018 @ 11:44am | ! Report

          If weakness against spin is going to be the factor in whether Khawaja gets selected or not I would hope that the same criteria will be applied to a replacement…

        • Roar Guru

          March 8th 2018 @ 11:53am
          The Bush said | March 8th 2018 @ 11:53am | ! Report

          As you say Ronan, at his age, he’s walking a tightrope at the moment. His Ashes figures look good overall, but as others have assessed, he didn’t score heavily when the series was live (though he did “contribute”), he failed in Bangladesh (though again, only one test for the guy) and he didn’t do well in the first test. South Africa is meant to be one of the few overseas tours he should thrive in. He’s not a great fielder and he doesn’t bowl, runs are his currency and when you only have a few places to score them, you gotta score them.

        • March 8th 2018 @ 12:10pm
          DaveJ said | March 8th 2018 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

          Good point about Khawaja. While he didn’t look that comfortable in the Sydney Test against Crane and Ali on a fairly flat surface, let’s hope his 170 will give him some confidence against the spin this time. It was noticeable that SA bought Maharaj on as soon as He came to bat in the first innings. Interesting point about Lyon rushing and not using flight. Perhaps that contributed to bowling too full a length which I thought was his main fault in the 2nd innings. Noticeable also that with three left handers in the Aussie top 5 Maharaj found he was bowling into the bowlers footmarks against them fairly early on.

          • March 8th 2018 @ 12:41pm
            Flemo said | March 8th 2018 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

            Rohan your Khawaja bashing starts again when the guy just got 180 odd in his last game in the most spinning pitch in SCG. Sure he didn’t have the best first game but he got out to spin once in his last 5 test matches. Let’s give Khawaja a full series before we judge him as he actually plays spin well but it’s the sun continent conditions that our Batman struggle with. And the guy just turned 31 so let’s not make him out to be a retiring 35 year old, you seem to be very eager for him to get older so he can retire. It would be good Ronan to see a positive comment once from you on Khawaja. In the sub continent he got zero tests in India and got dropped after one test in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka for test matches which were the flattest to bat on so Trevor Hohns has done a great job playing with his confidence there. So let’s cut the guy some slack as he got 180 odd last game

          • March 8th 2018 @ 2:31pm
            Nope said | March 8th 2018 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

            Crane and Ali can hardly be considered spinners.

            • March 8th 2018 @ 3:00pm
              Stephen said | March 8th 2018 @ 3:00pm | ! Report

              I agree with Flemo. Khawaja just came off a career high test score and after one game some people are saying he won’t play the next ashes and falsely putting his age as 33 when he just had his 31st birthday. I get it that khawaja is breaking cultural norms by playing our national sport but no batsman has been more unfairly treated specially in the sub continent as khawaja has and its a miracle the guy still has any confidence left. I cant wait for him to get a century in the coming games so he an prove his doubters wrong who get on his case after one game, absurd

              • Roar Guru

                March 8th 2018 @ 3:48pm
                The Bush said | March 8th 2018 @ 3:48pm | ! Report

                The reference to 33 is that that would be his age at the next Ashes (which is where Ronan’s comment was heading).

              • Roar Guru

                March 8th 2018 @ 4:03pm
                Matt H said | March 8th 2018 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

                Are Flemo and Stephen the same person? They always manage to find an anti Khawaja bias to jump on.

                And Stephen playing the race card again. Really? He’s not the only batsman in Australian history to be dropped you know. Ponting, Hayden, Steve Waugh (twice), other Waugh, Damien Martyn (for 6 years for one poor stroke), Langer, etc.

                And Khawaja is not the only batsman to be perceived as having a particular weakness. Doug Walters and his weakness in England springs to mind. Michael Bevan and a perceived weakness against short pitched bowing.

                And Khawaja’s failures were treated much more leniently than Joe Burns’ for example.

                So there is NO ULTERIOR MOTIVE. It’s just about cricket.

              • Roar Rookie

                March 8th 2018 @ 4:38pm
                Roger said | March 8th 2018 @ 4:38pm | ! Report

                Don’t forget Ross, Rosso and Rossie 👽

              • Columnist

                March 8th 2018 @ 4:56pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | March 8th 2018 @ 4:56pm | ! Report

                Yeah people forgot really quickly about poor old Joe Burns.

                Burns was man of the match with 170 and 65 in a great win away from home in NZ and then was dumped just two Tests later.

              • March 8th 2018 @ 5:17pm
                Flemo said | March 8th 2018 @ 5:17pm | ! Report

                This is what some of you always do, when you can’t argue facts resort to calling different people the same person. It’s frustrating but I guess your bias towards Khawaja will remain. But my point remains, Khawaja made a career high score just last game and some people here including the writer are predicting that he will not play the 2019 ashes and that he will be 33 next year which is just false, Khawaja is not rebel Wilson. And as for unfair treatment people lot quoting his performance in India but he has played 0 tests in India and when we did go last year and he was in career best form he was kept out for Shaun Marsh who averaged 19. I am a fan of marsh now as he has been brilliant but at the time not playing Khawaja was pure discrimination because he was in career best form. And then what are the chances that both in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh he gets dropped after one test for the only game where there is a flat wicket, the common element in all this was that hohns was selector on duty and to sum up Khawaja’s treatment in the sub continent has been shameful as you don’t treat one of your best batsman like this

              • Roar Rookie

                March 10th 2018 @ 3:18pm
                Roger said | March 10th 2018 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

                Try not to be so obvious then 😀

              • March 8th 2018 @ 6:14pm
                Fergus said | March 8th 2018 @ 6:14pm | ! Report

                If you treat Khawaja’s home form and away form as entirely different things it’s really not that unreasonable a supposition to make. The reality is the last time khawaja made a score of note away from home was in 2016, 2 years ago and he currently averages 25 away. So considering the ashes are away and immediately preceded by a tour of the UAE and Khawaja played 1 of six games on the subcontinent despite being in good home form, it isn’t unreasonable to suggest he might miss the cut.

              • March 8th 2018 @ 6:26pm
                Stephen said | March 8th 2018 @ 6:26pm | ! Report

                Khawaja is our best batsman after warner and smith and is our best player of pace and swing bowling, if anything he will be key batsman for us in winning the ashes in England, alot will depend on him and Smith/Warner if we are any chance there as our bowlers can’t do it on their own.

              • March 8th 2018 @ 9:13pm
                Fergus said | March 8th 2018 @ 9:13pm | ! Report

                I agree, his form in the early shield games showed how good in tough conditions he is, as well as his knocks in Hobart, Adelaide and NZ. But he has to be in England to perform in England and if he keeps up his current away form, wouldn’t be surprised to see him dropped at some point.

      • March 8th 2018 @ 1:45pm
        SJ said | March 8th 2018 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

        Not so sure about that spin advantage – Maharaj was certainly more effective than Lyon in Durban. He’s been great for SA ever since he came into the team.

        • Roar Guru

          March 8th 2018 @ 3:49pm
          The Bush said | March 8th 2018 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

          He looks a great fine, but Lyon got’s 300 plus wickets and took the most wickets in the world last year. To not say we don’t have an advantage in the spin department would be wrong.

          • March 8th 2018 @ 6:15pm
            Fergus said | March 8th 2018 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

            Quality and quantity are different things, you would do well to remember that.

            • Roar Guru

              March 8th 2018 @ 6:33pm
              The Bush said | March 8th 2018 @ 6:33pm | ! Report

              Because his amazing tour of India weren’t quality wickets?

              Must be why Warnie was such a success there.

              You’d do well to remember that.

              • March 8th 2018 @ 9:23pm
                Fergus said | March 8th 2018 @ 9:23pm | ! Report

                Because he got comprehensibly outbowled by Maharaj. i’m not saying Lyons last year wasn’t brilliant but he had alot of good/average years preceding that one. When you take that as well as Maharaj’s superior first class record in to account it’s a bit tough to say Australia has a clear edge in the spin department.

    • March 8th 2018 @ 9:37am
      Ouch said | March 8th 2018 @ 9:37am | ! Report

      Sounds like a tailor made pitch for the Oz bowling attack.

    • March 8th 2018 @ 9:44am
      Brian said | March 8th 2018 @ 9:44am | ! Report

      Sounds like whoever wins the toss and bats wins it again

      • March 8th 2018 @ 12:05pm
        jameswm said | March 8th 2018 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

        True – toss could have a big influence. I reckon the Aussies will win if they win the toss. If SA win the toss, it’s 50/50.

      • March 9th 2018 @ 1:45am
        Don Freo said | March 9th 2018 @ 1:45am | ! Report

        Australia wins it either way. SA don’t have the attack to roll Australia twice. Morkel and Philander are ineffective on a wicket more than a day and a bit old.

    • March 8th 2018 @ 10:28am
      Chris said | March 8th 2018 @ 10:28am | ! Report

      I could be totally wrong about this, but one thing I’ve noticed about SA against both Australia and India, is the pace with which they score. Watching their batting, SA seem as if they are sometimes playing an ODI, and not a Test match.

      The Aussie batsmen seemed to be doing a similar thing before the Ashes, but they seem to have rectified that and are proving more patient at the crease.

      If this pitch is spin-friendly and the ball starts to reverse, SA will be in deep trouble in no time if they don’t bat with more patience.

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