South Africa vs Australia: Second Test preview, prediction

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    In what was an unexpected start to Australia’s tour of South Africa, the visitors came away with a huge 118-run victory and the pressure will now be on the hosts to turn it around in Port Elizabeth.

    The unexpected moments coming out of the game began in the days leading up, when the pitch was revealed to be dry, low and slow.

    It was a far cry from those pitches we saw during the Indian tour from earlier this year, but for what was supposed to be the closest Test series of the year, the first match was somewhat underwhelming with Australia virtually having it won by the end of Day 2.

    In truth, South Africa were only outplayed by Australia over the course of a couple of sessions. The first day was evenly poised, the second not so, then the Proteas fought extremely hard to get it to a fifth day.

    The collapse at the start of the second innings, when South Africa lost four wickets in quick time, illustrates they don’t have what it takes though.

    While Mitchell Starc took all the accolades for wrapping up the tail, ending with nine matches for the match, it was Aussie spinner Nathan Lyon who paved the way to victory.

    Just when Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram were looking set during the first innings, Lyon came on and took two wickets in his first over, getting rid of Elgar and Amla.

    Nathan Lyon

    (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

    Australia’s batting wasn’t perfect either. Mitchell Marsh needed to save them in the first innings with 96, taking them to a score well above what was considered par. Other half-centuries helped, but given the way South Africa batted, it was clear the pitch was two-paced and no batsmen ever felt in.

    Their second innings saw the lead go out more than enough from an already strong position, so it’s hard to judge what we saw. Cameron Bancroft scoring some runs was the biggest positive to take out of the second innings for the tourists, with the opener struggling recently.

    Still, the match was realistically over by Day 2 and so the Proteas will need to find a way to play more consistent cricket and get better production from their batting line-up if they are to stay in the series.

    The track in Port Elizabeth is expected to be even slower than the one used in Durban, and the track record shows it. Of 56 total Tests in Port Elizabeth, only ten have resulted in draws, which is an incredibly low percentage.

    Of those 46 result matches, South Africa have won just 21 and not had a great deal of fun on the slow track often presented at St George’s Park.

    Given their struggles in Durban, it doesn’t bode well if Starc can get the ball reversing again and Lyon continues with his hot run of form.

    Interestingly, Australia collapsed in their last visit to Port Elizabeth, losing five wickets in quick time during a monster fourth innings chase. Shaun Marsh got a pair and the tourists lost by 231 runs before going on to win the series.

    The history

    Last three matches in Port Elizabeth
    February 20-23, 2014: South Africa defeat Australia by 231 runs
    March 14-17, 1997: Australia defeat South Africa by 2 wickets
    March 5-10, 1970: South Africa defeat Australia by 323 runs

    Last five series
    2016-17 in Australia: South Africa defeat Australia 2-1 (three-match series)
    2014 in South Africa: Australia defeat South Africa 2-1 (three-match series)
    2012-13 in Australia: South Africa defeat Australia 1-0 (three-match series)
    2012 in South Africa: South Africa drew Australia 1-1 (two-match series)
    2009 in South Africa: Australia defeat South Africa 2-1 (three-match series)
    Total: South Africa 2, Australia 2, drawn 1

    Total matches head-to-head: Played 95, Australia 52, South Africa 23
    Total series head-to-head: Played 26, Australia 16, South Africa 5, drawn 5
    Total matches in South Africa: Played 53, Australia 36, South Africa 7, drawn 10
    Total series in South Africa: Played 14, Australia 11, South Africa 2, drawn 1
    Total matches at Port Elizabeth: Played 6, Australia 3, South Africa 3

    Let’s just play some cricket
    The accusations and finger pointing following the ugly incident between David Warner and Quinton de Kock have marred the fall out from the first Test.

    Both players were fined, but neither suspended and the tensions aren’t likely to abate when we head to Port Elizabeth.

    If it continues, especially for the pair who have already received a fine, then neither should be expecting to play the third Test.

    Sledging, to a certain degree, is a part of the game. Cricket is played between the ears, so let’s not mistake it with that, but there is a line, and by all reports, both men crossed it in the first Test.

    Let’s get it back to acceptable levels during the second Test so no one has to be fined or suspended and it’s not the main point dominating the press over the days between the second and third match of the series.

    What to make of the South African middle order?
    When you look at positions three to five in the South African side – Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis, they should be capable of a lot more than what they churned out in Durban.

    The only form of resistance from the South African duo was de Villiers in the first innings as he made a very solid 71 not out.

    They did nothing in the second innings as the Proteas fell in a heap, eventually making their chase look respectable thanks to Markram, de Bruyn and de Kock.

    The problem is, none of the three have been in great form heading into the series.

    Australia’s bowling attack isn’t going to get any weaker, so if the hosts want to stay in this series, they need to find an answer in a hurry.

    Hashim Amla batting against England

    (Nick Potts/PA via AP)

    Cameron Bancroft is feeling the heat
    A half-century eased some of the pressure off the West Australian in Durban, but the pressure is still on for him to make runs over the final three matches in the rainbow nation.

    He didn’t have a great Ashes, but was picked to go overseas and is likely to remain at the top of the order for the entirety, given the alternative is to mess with a set batting order and move Shaun Marsh to the top.

    Bancroft needs to find more runs and consistently. Things were less than easy in Durban – let’s not forget no one scored a century for the duration of the match – but Bancroft needs to continue to grit things out in Port Elizabeth and play to the conditions.

    Anything less than being one of Australia’s best will only continue to heap everything against him as he tries to lock down a spot for matches against Bangladesh during the winter and next summer’s series against India.

    South Africa’s attack needs a green wicket
    If one thing was confirmed in Durban, it’s that Australia’s attack can adapt to all conditions. In part, that’s thanks to the excellent work of off-spinner Nathan Lyon, but there are other factors at play as well.

    Starting with Lyon, it’s clear he is the superior spinner in the series. His efforts in the first innings in Durban were superb. South Africa, through Elgar and Markram were off to a fantastic start in a chase of a score probably just over par, before Lyon came on and took two wickets in an over.

    While he didn’t have that game changing influence or moment again, he was consistent, bowled great lines and lengths, got plenty of turn and didn’t bowl many bad balls at all.

    Maharaj had a strong Test, but competing with Lyon is something he wasn’t able to do.

    Then there is the Aussie pace arsenal. Mitchell Starc with a reverse swinging ball may be the most dangerous thing in cricket right now, while Josh Hazlewood conitnued to bowl with his increased pace during the Ashes. Pat Cummins complemented them well and the Proteas order never had a let off.

    On the other side of the coin, the South African attack looks a bar below without Dale Steyn. Vernon Philander needs a green wicket to excel, Morne Morkel couldn’t get much to work for him and while Kagiso Rabada was good, he can’t do it all on his own.

    It’s become clear another deck like the one in Durban will suit the Aussies.


    (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

    Mitchell Marsh could be Australia’s X-Factor
    Who thought those words would be written at any point in 2018 before the Ashes started? The answer of course, is very few.

    Marsh was in the international cricket wilderness before the summer started, but he has turned things around and came full circle with his 96 in the first innings. It was one of the most mature innings Marsh has played at this level and probably even better than the hundred he got in Perth.

    While his bowling isn’t quite where it needs to be, that doesn’t matter. He is a solid option and batting at number six, you are expected to make runs.

    That’s exactly what Marsh has done since his return to the team.

    Whereas a lot of teams will have an all rounder for the sake of having an all rounder or a more aggressive type of batsman at six, Australia have answered that long-running problem with Marsh.

    Now, I don’t want to blow the trumpet too much. He is still in the phase of proving his consistency, but the signs are there for him to become the X-Factor type player, particularly if he can pick up on the bowling front.

    Key game information: South Africa vs Australia second Test

    First ball: 7pm (AEDT)
    Venue: St George’s Park
    TV: Live, Fox Sports
    Online: Live, Foxtel app or Foxtel now
    Betting: Australia $1.92, South Africa $2.70, Draw $5.35

    Series so far
    1st Test: Australia won by 118 runs at Kingsmead, Durban

    Remaining fixtures
    3rd Test: March 22 – 26 at Newlands, Cape Town
    4th Test: March 30 – April 3 at Wanderers, Johannesburg

    Likely XIs and squads

    South Africa
    1. Dean Elgar
    2. Aiden Markam
    3. Hashim Amla
    4. Faf Du Plessis (c)
    5. AB De Villiers
    6. Theunis De Bruyn
    7. Quinton De Kock (wk)
    8. Vernon Philander
    9. Keshav Maharaj
    10. Kagiso Rabada
    11. Morne Morkel
    Rest of squad: Temba Bavuma, Heinrich Klaasen, Willem Mulder, Lungi Ngidi

    1. David Warner (vc)
    2. Cameron Bancroft
    3. Usman Khawaja
    4. Steve Smith (c)
    5. Shaun Marsh
    6. Mitchell Marsh
    7. Tim Paine (wk)
    8. Mitchell Starc
    9. Pat Cummins
    10. Josh Hazlewood
    11. Nathan Lyon
    Rest of squad: Peter Handscomb, Jon Holland, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers

    Hours of play

    Start (AEDT) Finish (AEDT) Start (local) Finish (local) Duration
    First session 7pm 9pm 10am 12 midday Two hours
    Lunch 9pm 9:40pm 12 midday 12:40 pm 40 minutes
    Second session 9:40pm 11:40pm 12:40pm 2:40pm Two hours
    Tea 11:40pm 12 midnight 2:40pm 3pm 20 minutes
    Third session 12 midnight 2am 3pm 5pm Two hours


    What can be established from the statistics is that we will get to a result in Port Elizabeth. What we can establish from the first Test is that on slower pitches with abrasive surfaces conducive to reverse swing, the Australian attack is leaps and bounds ahead.

    South Africa have plenty of experience in their middle order, but that counts for nothing if they can’t score runs. Their youngsters showed everyone how to do it in the second innings, but Australia looked to have more depth across the board in the first Test.

    Another slow pitch should allow Lyon to further ram home his advantage over Maharaj and with Australia’s attack having more variation, they should go up 2-0.

    Australia to win again.

    Don’t forget, The Roar will cover each and every day of the series with live blogs and highlights on Roar TV.

    Scott Pryde
    Scott Pryde

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 2000 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.

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    The Crowd Says (25)

    • March 9th 2018 @ 7:58am
      Bretto said | March 9th 2018 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      About time we got back to incisive sledging – quality not quantity is the key. It loses potency when you are just calling the opposition an effing richardhead every second ball.

    • March 9th 2018 @ 8:19am
      SJ said | March 9th 2018 @ 8:19am | ! Report

      “Another slow pitch should allow Lyon to further ram home his advantage over Maharaj” – strange comment considering Maharaj was clearly the better performer in Durban

      • March 9th 2018 @ 10:12am
        jameswm said | March 9th 2018 @ 10:12am | ! Report

        He got more wickets. Doesn’t necessarily make him the superior performer.

      • March 9th 2018 @ 11:33am
        Ouch said | March 9th 2018 @ 11:33am | ! Report

        Lyon’s first 2 wickets swung the test hugely in Australias favour. SA never recovered. The SA spinner got more but Lyons were more influential.

    • March 9th 2018 @ 9:24am
      Don Freo said | March 9th 2018 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      I wouldn’t have thought there was much wrong with Marsh’s bowling. No one could get Markram until someone told Steve Smith that Mitch was in the side a he can bowl too.

      He wasn’t needed in the first dig but his seven overs in the second were tight and probing.

      • March 9th 2018 @ 10:09am
        Ouch said | March 9th 2018 @ 10:09am | ! Report

        Great having a 5th bowler who can send them down at 140 on a good line.

    • March 9th 2018 @ 10:22am
      Don Freo said | March 9th 2018 @ 10:22am | ! Report

      Didn’t pay much attention to International Women’s Day?

      I hope you didn’t condemn either player’s behaviour if you think such a comment about Candice is funny.

      You might think it is JUST a play on words. I hope you understand why Davy and Candice would not.

    • March 9th 2018 @ 10:34am
      Bobbo7 said | March 9th 2018 @ 10:34am | ! Report

      I reckon Warner might have fired SA up here – I expect a much better performance from SA. They have a lot of class in their top 7 – if they get it together could be an interesting match.

      • Roar Rookie

        March 9th 2018 @ 10:43am
        Pedro The Fisherman said | March 9th 2018 @ 10:43am | ! Report

        After the flogging the Saffers got last week they shouldn’t need to be fired up by any sideshow incidents.
        I suspect that Davey Warner will be well and truly fired up.

      • March 9th 2018 @ 1:25pm
        Neville said | March 9th 2018 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

        So predictable Bobbo, boring too…

        • March 9th 2018 @ 3:40pm
          Larry1950 said | March 9th 2018 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

          As a aussie I agree with Bobbo but you’re only as good as your last innings, note the flak Steve Smith is copping for his moderate return of around 80 in the first test. I think SA’s key batsmen went into the first test carrying niggling injuries and were underdone, interesting to see whether that game helped or hindered faf and abd.
          When I was listening to the radio coverage on the app I found the constant chatter by Warner in particular picked up on the stump mikes annoying, but nothing insulting, however I stopped listening after a while because of the volume of that background noise. The broadcast team needs to turn that effects volume down because half the time you couldn’t follow their commentary. And please, 20 minutes after the break, no score given, just a comment that there had been no change to the lunchtime score, what if you don’t know that score!!

          • March 9th 2018 @ 3:52pm
            Ouch said | March 9th 2018 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

            They weren’t underdone Larry. They’d just finished a series against India. The Australians hadn’t played for weeks.

    • March 9th 2018 @ 11:39am
      Tanmoy Kar said | March 9th 2018 @ 11:39am | ! Report

      In case of a slower pitch, Australia will get advantage and will win easily.

      • March 9th 2018 @ 12:13pm
        jameswm said | March 9th 2018 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

        Especially if they win the toss.

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