|Event:||South Africa in Australia 2008/09|
DateLine: 8th December 2008
South African View
Bangladesh may have occasionally been able to put a little pressure on South Africa in the second test, but it’s nothing like what the Proteas are going to experience in their three-test series in Australia starting next month.
After beating Bangladesh by an innings and 48 runs within three days to complete a 2-0 series sweep, South Africa captain Graeme Smith was pleased with the intensity shown by his players in bowling out the tourists for 131 in their second innings
There is going to be much less margin for error against Australia, though, and Smith will be hoping his attack can sharpen up in the extra time they’ll have for warm-up matches in Australia following the cancellation the Twenty20 Champions League in India. No sooner had the South Africans touched down in Perth than their coach, Mickey Arthur, was outlining their aim to become the first team since the West Indians of 1992-93 to defeat Australia on home soil.
With the world's leading run-scorer, Graeme Smith (1363 runs) and wicket-taker Dale Steyn(60 wickets) for this year in their ranks - complemented by a well-credentialed support cast - South Africa enter their Australian tour with balance, form and a record of eight wins from their past nine series. The Proteas are also buoyed by the absence of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, who had dominated many of the 24 Tests, played between the two nations' since South Africa's readmission to international cricket in 1992 and often proved the difference between the two sides.
Arthur has made no secret of the importance this series holds for his nation and has liaised with Duncan Fletcher and Gary Kirsten - the previous two international coaches to have subjected Australia to series defeats - to boost his dossier on the Australians. Kirsten, who piloted India to a 2-0 win over Australia this spring, says Australia's newer squad members are vulnerable and rates South Africa to emerge victorious and create a new world order. Arthur said the bitter memories of past series defeats to Australia had motivated the South Africans over the past two years. The Proteas lost five of six Tests to Australia in 2005-06 but have since refined their game and emerged as legitimate contenders for the ICC Test race.
The South Africans are favored to select an all-pace attack at the WACA Ground, where the pace and bounce should suit the towering Morkel and the ever-awkward Ntini. Arthur, though, said he was some way off finalizing the make-up of his attack for the first Test and did not rule out playing a specialist spinner, most likely Paul Harris.
Meanwhile Australia will be glad that they were not stressed out by any imaginable means by New Zealand in the Trans-Tasman Trophy, which the Aussies possessed by a comfortable 2-0 margin, but it is the six Tests against South Africa over the next four months that will determine how far Australia have tumbled.
But better sense of judgment has prevailed on Ricky Ponting as he himself without going overboard which he normally does had admitted quietly that the Kiwis were not that dangerous side and the real test lies ahead. Except for the first Test where the wicket was doing its bit New Zealand did not have the firepower to blast the batting of Australia nor bat the Aussies out of the game when they had the chance. Ponting for the first time had the frowns regarding a lead-up to a series as he realized that the South African this time has arrived knowing well that they have a chance to beat Australia.
Since the retirements starting from the elegant Damien Martyn, talismanic Shane Warne, crafty Glenn McGrath, rock-like Justin Langer, deadly Jason Gillespie, work-horse Michael Kasprowicz and dangerous Adam Gilchrist, and surprisingly all these players were the thorns in the flesh of the Australian team. The current team has only three players who can rattle the resurgent South African outfit and without doubt the huge burden falls upon the broad shoulders of Matt Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Brett Lee. Clearly the selection committee’s thinking process seems to be muddled. Spinners like Dan Cullen and Cullen Bailey were given the Australian contracts but were not called for national duty. Cameron White and Nathan Hauritz were used but were found to be as threatening as a poodle where as Jason Krejza is the only quality spinner in the ranks who looks to be a fighter rather than an enchanter of Warne’s caliber.
All together it seems to be heading to a balanced series rather and this time it promises to be a great affair rather than the previous duds that one often gets to see when these two sides used to meet. Although there might be an outside chance that the Australian team can rise up as it is always seen that desperate situations always throw up unlikely heroes.
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