Tuesday, February 11, 2014

South Africa v Australia

The real test of strength of the Australian Test team begins tomorrow at Centurion. The weakness of the touring English side, Ben Stokes aside, made the Ashes series almost non-competitive and the comprehensive win has lifted the spirits of the general Australian cricket watcher. The series victory-and the manner of each Test victory certainly lifted the regard of cricket in this country, and brought cricket from the back pages of the newspapers to the front, overshadowing both economic turmoil and politics.

Without doubt, Australia truly thumped the English, and none of the victories were as close as the defeats suffered in the British summer. The phenomenal success of Johnson, along with the great support from Siddle, Harris, Watson and Lyon allowed the Aussies to get 20 wickets in each Test, with important contributions from all the batsmen (with all the batsmen other than Bailey passing 300 runs for the series) setting up comprehensive victories.

Alex Doolan- touted to bat at 3, despite a relatively poor year
The only problem with crushing a poor side at home; is that the expectations about future results inflate without just cause. This was visible during the last Test, where ABC and Channel 9 commentators contemplated the sides' chances against the world number 1 side; it started with a question of "what chance do they have" and they discussed the good form of the Aussies, but the commentators seemed not to follow the form of the South Africans, so much so that by the time the series had ended, they had come to the conclusion that " we should be able to win, irregardless of the strength of the opponents".

The weight of runs scored by Hughes
should see him force his way back into the side
Given the instability in the batting order after George Bailey's omission and Shane Watson's injury, and the questions around the selection, either of potential debutante Doolan, or the recalled Shaun Marsh and Phillip Hughes; assuming that the Aussies will seriously challenge and potentially beat the South Africans on home soil is, I fear, unfounded. With Bailey and Watson out, I hope to see Doolan bat at 3 and with Hughes at 4, with Clarke returning to his favoured 5 and Smith at 6.

With Watson out of the side with another soft tissue/muscular injury, and with no immediate replacement available (Faulkner) the side is now more reliant on the 4 selected bowlers, unless Clarke and Smith want to chip in with the ball. Whether or not Johnson can continue his good form with the red ball is important to the success of the side, as his knack of taking wickets with high frequency will help reduce the burden placed on Harris and his dodgy knees. The effectiveness of Siddle and Lyon will also be integral to keeping Australia in the series, as the tightness of their bowling has been a major factor to Johnson's ability to take wickets.
Another injury to Shane Watson has opened
the door for Hughes, Doolan or Marsh to step in. And without
James Faulkner, his bowling will also be missed. 

Hopefully, the side can perform well, and with luck can spring a surprise. However, given the strength of the Proteas at home, I'm not holding my breath.