Finally, we can just talk about the cricket

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By Glenn Mitchell, Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

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    In the space of one Test, Australia’s fortunes have swung dramatically.

    After a convincing win in the opening Test at Durban, the tourists entered the second encounter at Port Elizabeth on a roll.

    That confidence was soon pricked by some explosive fast bowling from Kagiso Rabada and a brilliant century from AB de Villiers.

    It is now the Proteas who are riding a wave into Newlands, especially on the overturning of Rabada’s series-ending ban.

    Since readmission to international cricket in 1993, Cape Town has proved a happy hunting ground for South Africa – four losses in 31 Tests.

    However, each of those four losses have come at the hands of Australia – 1994, 2002, 2006 and the last series in 2014.

    Australia has lost just twice at Newlands in the post-Apartheid era – 2009 and 2011 – with the most recent of those a monumental embarrassment.

    After Michael Clarke made a magnificent 151 in Australia’s first innings total of 284, South Africa was shot out for 96.

    The tourists then slumped to a staggering 9-21 in their second innings and looked destined to break New Zealand’s record 26 for the lowest score in Test history before Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon got them to a total of 47.

    South Africa ran down the target of 236 with the loss of just two wickets thanks to centuries from Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla.

    That Test marked the debut of Vernon Philander, whose second innings 5-15 earned him man-of-the-match.

    Philander was again to the fore in his side’s most recent Test at Newlands, winning another man-of-the-match accolade on the back of 3-33 and a career-best 6-42.

    That match against India, just two months ago, was played on a pitch that provided plenty for the pace bowlers with the game finishing on the fourth day despite day three being lost to rain – one of the few times of late the arid city has copped a drenching.

    The match scores were 286, 209, 130 and 135 with South Africa winning by 72 runs.

    The final day saw 18 wickets fall in just 64 overs.

    Much was made of the pitches that were rolled out for that series with the hosts aiming to craft surfaces that would suit their quicks, an area where they believed they held a distinct advantage over India.

    Wary of Australia’s pace armoury, the methodology has changed this series with the first two Tests played on pitches that did not offer a lot early on.

    Much of the damage thus far has been wrought with the old ball – Mitchell Starc at Durban and Rabada at PE.

    Mitchell Starc

    (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

    If reports coming out of Cape Town are to be believed, the pitch for the third Test will be green-tinged and provide seam movement for the quicks early on.

    A verdant pitch block is likely to limit the ability to scuff up the ball and potentially lessen the impact of reverse swing.

    The conditions, however, are unlikely to be as batsman unfriendly as the one rolled out for the India series.

    At the halfway point of the series no Australian batsman has made a century – Shaun Marsh’s 96 at Durban being the highest score.

    Conversely, Aiden Markram (143) and de Villiers (126no) have both posted centuries and, had he not run out of partners at Durban, de Villiers could well have scored two.

    David Warner has posted half-centuries in each of the first two Tests and looked particularly sound on the opening day at Port Elizabeth.

    Last time at Cape Town he reeled off innings of 135 and 145.

    In concert with Cam Bancroft, the pair will be crucial to Australia’s prospects if they end up batting on the first day.

    The duo kicked off the Port Elizabeth Test with a partnership of 98 before being broken in the last over before lunch.

    Disappointingly, the tourists ended up posting a modest 243, a score South Africa countered with 382.

    So much of Australia’s recent successes have been built around Steve Smith who, in this series, has been unable to convert starts into significant totals.

    He has reached 25 in three of his four innings to date but not bettered 56.

    His fallibility to left-arm spin has continued to be an issue.

    Steve Smith reacts sad Ashes 2nd Test.

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Three of his four dismissals have come that way – twice to Keshav Maharaj (who has him three times in four Tests) and Dean Elgar, whose dismissal of Smith in the first Test was just his 14th wicket in 47 matches.

    While Smith’s record against spin does not match the travails that Usman Khawaja has been renowned for it is an area that opposing captains will likely to continue to exploit.

    He averages 37.2 against left-arm finger-spin while against other varieties of bowling he averages 49 or over.

    If South Africa can continue to keep him under wraps. Australia’s chances are greatly diminished.

    Conversely, de Villiers has proven to be a massive stumbling block – 225 runs at 112.5.

    It appeared Australia’s bowlers lacked a genuine game plan against him during his match-defining unbeaten century at Port Elizabeth.

    In that Test, he was greatly aided by the dogged stand between Elgar (57 off 197 balls) and Hashim Amla (56 off 145).

    While they added only 43 in the middle session on the second day it blunted the Australian attack from overs 40 to 66 when the ball was reversing.

    Australia’s batsmen need to produce similar stands in the back half of the series when the conditions are favourable to Rabada, in particular.

    South Africa's Kagiso Rabada appeals

    South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

    There will be a close watch on Mitchell Starc who comes into the match under nursing a calf complaint.

    After a man-of-the-match performance in the opening Test he returned figures of 1-125 at Port Elizabeth.

    His precision with the old ball at Durban was one of the keys in Australia going 1-nil up.
    Mitch Marsh is recovering from a groin strain.

    While he gets limited time at the bowling crease he has struck a couple of crucial blows in this series.

    All in all, the third Test looms as another fascinating encounter.

    Whichever way it goes the series will still be live when the teams step out at Johannesburg for the final match of the series.

    Let us just hope that the major talking points in the last half of the series centre on on-field performances with both bat and ball.

    It would make a pleasant change.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.

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    The Crowd Says (60)

    • Roar Guru

      March 22nd 2018 @ 5:13am
      Corne Van Vuuren said | March 22nd 2018 @ 5:13am | ! Report

      I think Australia has a slight edge in the batting department, Proteas have a number of their top batsmen struggling for form, if de Villiers fail in this test I don’t see Amla, De Kock and Faf saving them.

      • March 22nd 2018 @ 9:04am
        sheek said | March 22nd 2018 @ 9:04am | ! Report

        Not necessarily true BB,

        Form can be rediscovered as quickly as it’s lost.

        As one brief example, the great Viv Richards did next to bugger all in the first three tests of 1984/85.

        He then came out in the 4th test in Melbourne & hit 208.

        • Roar Guru

          March 22nd 2018 @ 9:09am
          Corne Van Vuuren said | March 22nd 2018 @ 9:09am | ! Report

          Anything is possible sheek, but form does not suggest it.

        • Roar Guru

          March 22nd 2018 @ 11:45am
          The Bush said | March 22nd 2018 @ 11:45am | ! Report

          Except only ABdV from RSA can be spoken about in the same breath as Richards… (though Amla is a fine player).

        • March 22nd 2018 @ 1:02pm
          Perry Bridge said | March 22nd 2018 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

          #sheek

          I loved Viv, and he was scratchy to start with that innings – got going though – and in the 2nd dig got a duck!!

      • Roar Guru

        March 22nd 2018 @ 9:48am
        JamesH said | March 22nd 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

        ‘If de Villiers fails’… I think this is definitely the key for South Africa. They have the bowling to restrict Australia’s totals but they have to score some runs themselves.

        For Australia, Smith and/or Warner simply have to stand up at some point if they want to win the series.

        • March 22nd 2018 @ 10:05am
          jameswm said | March 22nd 2018 @ 10:05am | ! Report

          Or SMarsh. Smith or SMarsh score big and ABDV fails in the 1st dig, the match is Australia’s. We know what we’ll get from both bowling attacks.

    • Roar Rookie

      March 22nd 2018 @ 6:10am
      Dan said | March 22nd 2018 @ 6:10am | ! Report

      Should be an absolute cracker!
      Always love playing South Africa – guaranteed to bring fire and passion with their quicks and patient, entertaining innings with the bat.
      I’m glad Rabada is allowed to play (rightly or wrongly – I believe rightly) and as another poster noted the other day (apologies for not referencing) I hope Faf wins the toss and bowls just so he can “unleash Rabada, who cares what the pitch is doing?”
      Worry for Australia with fragile batting unless it clicks and the bowling stocks as Glenn rightly points out look shaky…

      Going to be an absolute gem this evening; AFL is back, the Storm are playing and the cricket will be scintillating – apologies to work in advance for tomorrow.

      Great read Glenn.

      • Roar Guru

        March 22nd 2018 @ 8:00am
        Chris Kettlewell said | March 22nd 2018 @ 8:00am | ! Report

        I reckon one of the great things about Australia v South Africa series comes down to the complete lack of home ground advantage. Over the last 20 years, there have been more away series wins between the two than home series wins. I’m pretty sure South Africa is still yet to win a home test series against Australia since re-admission, but meanwhile South Africa have won several test series in Australia.

        So there’s not so much the thought of whether the visiting team can overcome the massive disadvantage of playing away from home like with most other test series, there’s just a good contest.

        Would love to see Rabada get “unleashed” and get smacked all around the park in this one. He needs to get brought back down to earth with a massive thud!

        • Roar Guru

          March 22nd 2018 @ 8:21am
          Corne Van Vuuren said | March 22nd 2018 @ 8:21am | ! Report

          Rabada needs to come down to earth based on what?

          He strikes me as a pleasant intelligent young man who gets a little swept away by his emotions, other than that I see no problem with a youngster that shows promise to be potentially one of te best fast bowlers in the history of the game.

          • Roar Guru

            March 22nd 2018 @ 3:23pm
            jeznez said | March 22nd 2018 @ 3:23pm | ! Report

            C’mon Biltong – he needs to come back down to earth because he isn’t an Aussie and he has been too good!

        • March 22nd 2018 @ 8:27am
          Neil Back said | March 22nd 2018 @ 8:27am | ! Report

          I think most neutrals would love to see Rabada continue to expose the pint-sized potty mouth, and the new Bradman, the fidget king.

          • Roar Rookie

            March 22nd 2018 @ 9:49am
            Don said | March 22nd 2018 @ 9:49am | ! Report

            Yep
            Even some Aussies are torn on that one.

            Personally, I like Smith but trying to make out like the contact by Rabada was harder than it looked was a little embarrassing.

            Warner? The Australian fan in me wants him to do well so we win.
            The cricket fan in me wants him to shut it and just play.

            But for me that applies to all sides.
            Can’t stand the common abuse being passed off as intimidation and gamesmanship.

            • March 22nd 2018 @ 10:18am
              mickey of mo$man said | March 22nd 2018 @ 10:18am | ! Report

              Warner did just “shut it” and play… after the first test he put all of it behind him and came out first innings batted beautifully.

              • Roar Rookie

                March 22nd 2018 @ 12:05pm
                Don said | March 22nd 2018 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

                And I hope he continues with that approach to his game.

            • March 22nd 2018 @ 4:58pm
              Fergus said | March 22nd 2018 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

              Considering rabada is about twice his size it probably did feel harder then it looked

          • Roar Guru

            March 22nd 2018 @ 9:50am
            JamesH said | March 22nd 2018 @ 9:50am | ! Report

            ‘Neutrals’ is an interesting term – if you mean fans outside of SA and Australia, most of them hate the Aussies with a passion. Not very neutral.

            • March 22nd 2018 @ 10:06am
              jameswm said | March 22nd 2018 @ 10:06am | ! Report

              Maybe Mr Back is purporting to be a neutral. NOw that would be amusing.

              He was a pint sized potty mouthed (and average) rugby player anyway, so I guess it takes one to know one.

              • March 22nd 2018 @ 10:17am
                JimmyB said | March 22nd 2018 @ 10:17am | ! Report

                Pint sized – certainly, potty mouthed – not sure, average – behave.

              • March 22nd 2018 @ 11:14am
                jameswm said | March 22nd 2018 @ 11:14am | ! Report

                Opinion. Overrated then.

              • March 22nd 2018 @ 11:46am
                Neil Back said | March 22nd 2018 @ 11:46am | ! Report

                Actually, underrated for a long time by the England set up, before eventual selection to the best rugby team England has so far produced.

              • March 22nd 2018 @ 11:32am
                Jake said | March 22nd 2018 @ 11:32am | ! Report

                “pint sized potty mouthed (and average)”

                Just like his namesake

              • Roar Rookie

                March 22nd 2018 @ 11:40am
                Don said | March 22nd 2018 @ 11:40am | ! Report

                ?
                You mean average is now;
                Rugby World Cup winner.
                66 tests
                3 Lions tours
                3 RWCs
                Heineken Cup winner
                Over 300 premiership games

                Boy, that yard stick makes every one of our current Wallabies below average…

                Say what we like about Neil’s opinions but he was a very very good Rugby player by any measure.

          • March 22nd 2018 @ 9:50am
            Peter said | March 22nd 2018 @ 9:50am | ! Report

            People with that attitude are not neutrals.

          • March 22nd 2018 @ 2:03pm
            Ouch said | March 22nd 2018 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

            I think most neutrals are thoroughly enjoying watching England battle their way to an epic 58 run first innings lead over the Black Caps.

    • March 22nd 2018 @ 7:50am
      Christo the Daddyo said | March 22nd 2018 @ 7:50am | ! Report

      “Let us just hope that the major talking points in the last half of the series centre on on-field performances with both bat and ball.”

      After the debacle of Rabada’s ban being overturned I can see this Test getting very nasty…

      • March 22nd 2018 @ 8:10am
        Kane said | March 22nd 2018 @ 8:10am | ! Report

        If it gets nasty then I reckon it will be at the hands of the Aussie’s, we seem to have a lot more s#$t stirrers than them and blokes that can give it out but not take it back very well. I reckon SA will be very quiet these last 2 Tests but it’s going to be fantastic cricket.

        • Roar Guru

          March 22nd 2018 @ 8:22am
          Corne Van Vuuren said | March 22nd 2018 @ 8:22am | ! Report

          I agree Kane,
          I expect the Proteas to just go on about their game, trying to focus on the cricketing part.

          • March 22nd 2018 @ 8:45am
            Christo the Daddyo said | March 22nd 2018 @ 8:45am | ! Report

            A right bunch of pure as the driven snow choir boys the South Africans are, right?

            LOL

            • Roar Guru

              March 22nd 2018 @ 9:01am
              Corne Van Vuuren said | March 22nd 2018 @ 9:01am | ! Report

              Nope, just focused, we tend to draw a lager when up against it. 😉

              • March 22nd 2018 @ 10:30am
                Jake said | March 22nd 2018 @ 10:30am | ! Report

                ja. They draw up a lager so no -one call see them ball tampering

          • March 22nd 2018 @ 10:07am
            jameswm said | March 22nd 2018 @ 10:07am | ! Report

            I reckon they should BTB. A dogfitght would suit the Aussie mentality better.

        • March 22nd 2018 @ 8:44am
          Christo the Daddyo said | March 22nd 2018 @ 8:44am | ! Report

          If I were Rabada I’d be thinking I’ve just got the green light to pretty much behave as I see fit without any real consequences.

          • March 22nd 2018 @ 8:47am
            Neil Back said | March 22nd 2018 @ 8:47am | ! Report

            Maybe that says more about you.

            • Roar Guru

              March 22nd 2018 @ 9:01am
              Corne Van Vuuren said | March 22nd 2018 @ 9:01am | ! Report

              Yup

            • March 22nd 2018 @ 9:24am
              Christo the Daddyo said | March 22nd 2018 @ 9:24am | ! Report

              Actually, it’s observed behaviour of Rabada. I thought that was obvious. But if you’d like to defend someone with his record, please, go right ahead…

              Seems pretty clear he’s got anger issues that he doesn’t know how to manage. If his captain, coach and CSA had the slightest interest in improving his behaviour they’d send him off to counseling. That way he wouldn’t continue to get punished for poor behaviour.

              • Roar Rookie

                March 22nd 2018 @ 9:59am
                Don said | March 22nd 2018 @ 9:59am | ! Report

                Ease up!
                What we have seen isn’t anger issues.
                Simply over exuberance and / or a lack of self control.

                Can we explain David Warner’s antics as “small man’s syndrome?”
                No.

                However, I’d venture that if there was any risk of physical retaliation on field, Rabada would continue the way he goes about his game. Warner I suspect would become quiet as a church mouse.

    • March 22nd 2018 @ 9:06am
      sheek said | March 22nd 2018 @ 9:06am | ! Report

      Glenn,

      “Finally, we can talk about the cricket”.

      That is until the match starts. This is not over yet. There are some cretins in both teams. I expect more indiscretions.

      If ICC think they’ve swept everything under the carpet, they’re in for a rude shock.

      • March 22nd 2018 @ 9:27am
        Christo the Daddyo said | March 22nd 2018 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        By not coming down hard on poor behaviour, they’ve made it worse don’t you think? Sooner or later there’s going to be a really bad incident. Might not be this game or this series or even these teams, but it’s going to happen at some point.

        • March 22nd 2018 @ 9:59am
          sheek said | March 22nd 2018 @ 9:59am | ! Report

          Christo – yep & precisely!

        • March 22nd 2018 @ 10:21am
          mickey of mo$man said | March 22nd 2018 @ 10:21am | ! Report

          +1

        • March 23rd 2018 @ 9:56am
          Ozinsa said | March 23rd 2018 @ 9:56am | ! Report

          Exactly. This was an opportunity to draw a line in the sand, focus this series on cricket and send a message to all knobs that it’s not OK to send batsmen off, shout at opponents in the tunnel and all the other crap that’s been tacitly approved in this series.

          Typically, cricket authorities have done nothing of the sort. The garbage goes on.

          I grew up playing grade cricket in Sydney and thought sledging to be part of the game. Never bothered me and I questioned players (often the Saffas) who moaned about it. After this series being ruined for me as players don’t know when to stop, I’ve officially changed my mind. All sledging is wrong and needs to be banned. It leads to worse behaviour and is a blight on the sport

    • March 22nd 2018 @ 9:24am
      Kangajets said | March 22nd 2018 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      Let’s hope Australia bat first and the battle between the Rabada and the Aussie’s is on , should be fascinating.

    • March 22nd 2018 @ 9:27am
      qwetzen said | March 22nd 2018 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      “Finally, we can talk about the cricket”.

      Yes we can, but with less enthusiasm than before.

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