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Aus vs SA Test Series preview

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Australia_South_Africa_Test_series_CricketCricket is a bit of a mess nowadays. The fixtures are all over the place, the formats are always chopping and changing, and before you know it you are watching your team with Nick Knight on commentary through no fault of your own.

There are moments of cricketing clarity from time to time though, when it is easy to focus on something and fully appreciate the spectacle. That spectacle is currently the Test series between Australia and South Africa.

Three Tests down under, one of them a day/nighter. Game on!

Fixtures:

November 3rd: Australia vs South Africa – Perth
November 12th: Australia vs South Africa – Hobart
November 24th: Australia vs South Africa – Adelaide (day/night)

A run fest straight up in Perth, followed by a potentially sticky wicket in Hobart, and then a thriller under lights in Adelaide. Let’s have a look at the teams.

Australia

The Aussies have selected their squad for the 1st Test, and in true Aussie fashion of late, they have included someone to confuse everyone. No, Ashton Agar isn’t there, but specialist bowlers have been getting dropped for not being good enough batsmen. So Rod Marsh…

Probable team:

Usman Khawaja
David Warner
Shaun Marsh
Steve Smith
Adam Voges
Mitchell Marsh
Peter Nevill
Nathan Lyon
Peter Siddle
Josh Hazlewood
Mitchell Starc
Joe Mennie (12th man)

Mennie looked pretty average as a one-day bowler in the chances he got in the 5-0 hammering from the Proteas recently. But he is better with the bat than Jackson Bird apparently, so there you go. Personally if your name is Jackson Bird, you should get picked every time just on your name. Anyways, matters little as both players realistically fit into the 12th man spot.

The rest of the team looks good though. Siddle, Starc and Hazlewood are going to be raring to go, and Warner leads a decent batting lineup which hopefully includes a less disappointing Steve Smith from an Aussie perspective.

Strengths

David Warner: He is a force of nature, and has a history of doing well against SA. Fatherhood seems to have rounded him too, so he is now that dependable senior player, and not just a mouthy bloke that can smash a bit. He’s going to be the key wicket for the Proteas in this series.

Nathan Lyon: You get players that are under-rated as they simply aren’t good enough to be rated highly. Then you get Nathan Lyon who is actually really good, but people underestimate him because he looks like a telephone repairman with a limited sense of humour. Well, that and the fact that he never gets picked in the limited overs formats despite being Australia’s best spinner. He is going to be a handful on all surfaces against the Proteas, and will complement the more hyped pace attack brilliantly.

Not in Asia: The Aussies were dreadful in Sri Lanka recently, and are going to be so happy to be back home. Like really really really happy.

Weaknesses

Rod Marsh: Seems to select squads in the manner of a drunk ordering a 2am curry. This 1st Test squad looks alright, but who knows what will happen from here should someone get injured or fail form-wise.

Venues: Playing the first Test in Perthfontein isn’t exactly the toughest thing for the Proteas to experience first up. Likely to be more South Africans in the crowd than Aussies, and they beat the hosts here heavily last time. Then it’s the 2nd Test in Hobart in 4 years, hardly an imposing place for visitors to go to. They still have home advantage, but that will only truly be something they can assert onto the opposition in the 3rd Test in Adelaide.

Fear factor: Who’s the guy in the Aussie attack that is going to have the Proteas bowlers hopping around the crease? That is how they have got on top of the South Africans in the past, but with no Mitchell Johnson the question needs to be asked. Mitchell Starc is going to have to be the answer, but with minimal game time post injury layoff and far fewer tattoos than Johnson, it could be a big ask.

South Africa

Brimming with confidence after thrashing the Aussies in that recent ODI series, they have had two decent knockarounds on Aussie turf going into this Test series. No AB de Villiers in the squad, but they will feel quietly confident that they have all areas covered to beat the home team.

Probable team:

Dean Elgar
Stephen Cook / Rilee Rossouw
Hashim Amla
Faf du Plessis
JP Duminy
Temba Bavuma
Quinton De Kock
Vernon Philander
Kagiso Rabada
Dale Steyn
Tabraiz Shamsi / Morne Morkel / Kyle Abbott

A little more uncertainty when it comes to who is taking the field here compared to the Aussies, but this should be the core of the side. If the senior players all pull their weight this team should be solid gold. But that is the big question though: can they?

Strengths

Bowling attack: Spin and seam, there are plenty options here, just a matter of picking the horses for the courses. Steyn is over his injuries and will raise his game even further for this big moment. Kagiso Rabada is a huge asset along with the veteran. Philander’s back too, with Morkel and Abbott offering their own unique qualities. The spinners may be a little green, but behind a solid seam attack, they will be effective when called upon.

Quinton De Kock: The young keeper/batsman is one of the biggest rising stars in the game right now, and is going to be a real threat against the Aussie bowlers. He can single-handedly change the course of a game, and (hopefully) will at some stage in this series.

Faf Du Plessis: He made a name for himself in Australia when he first came into this team, and now finds himself as the captain with De Villiers’ injury and Amla’s lack of interest in the role. In fairness, if he isn’t captain he wouldn’t be in this team, something that has helped him regain some form with the bat of late. This is as big as it gets for Faf, so expect him to rise to the challenge and lead from the front.

Weaknesses:

Recent results: Since losing possession of the ICC’s magical mace, they have had a lean run of things. They got nothing more than wet in Bangladesh, got spun to death in India, then got owned at home by the English. They will have no doubt moved on from these disappointments, but if the Aussies can open these wounds, they could just open up a whole new can of doubt in a team notorious for letting past scars influence their performance.

Coaching staff: Put it this way: if Mickey Arthur was to return as head coach of the Proteas, it would be an improvement. The coaching unit of the Proteas have been found wanting in recent times as they simply aren’t experienced enough in my opinion, and Aussie tours can be a very tough assignment if things start going a little wrong. Like I said above, they will have learned a lot from previous failures, but the question marks are still there.

Middle order: The top order looks pretty good with the bat, but should early wickets fall, that middle order is going to be severely tested. The absence of AB will be felt to a degree, and the Aussies will remind the Proteas of this. Then you have JP Duminy, who will be targeted with the short ball, and will battle against Lyon. Temba Bavuma is a talent, but still inexperienced in the greater scheme of things. Quinton De Kock will be good, but he doesn’t need pressure to stifle his natural flow. If Philander bats at no. 7, that will also put a lot of pressure on the aforementioned players.

Verdict:

There is a lot to take in here, and certainly just cause to see either team winning this series. As a South African I try not to make predictions, and with this series ending with a pink ball test, your guess will literally be as good as mine.

For me the deciding factor is the Proteas having a better bowling attack, with their batting lineups cancelling each other out.

Got a feeling the Adelaide Test is going to be crucial, and with the ‘better’ seamers, I’m backing the Proteas.

 

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Ben Karpinski is a South African sports blogger/MC/tweeter with a heart so broken by the Proteas, t...

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