Posted by: nestaquin | March 13, 2009

Australian Cricket On Top of the World

punter-and-pupAustralia have well and truly proven their critics wrong with another outstanding performance with the ball to clinch the heavyweight championship of Test cricket with a crushing 175 run win over South Africa at Durban.

Given next to no chance before the series began, the underdog controlled the series from the moment Ricky Ponting launched a searing attack on South Africa’s bowlers on the first morning in Johannesburg. At the time his team were 36/3 with Steyn, Morkel and Ntini rampant but the bold attack unsettled the South Africans and the hosts never fully recovered.

I’ve written daily of Australia’s progression from rank outsider to champion throughout the series and there isn’t much of note that hasn’t been recorded so instead of focusing on Ponting and his wonderful band of inexperienced champions perhaps a few words about the vanquished who have just recorded their first loss in eleven series.

Wounded, physically and emotionally, the South African team that has had more success than any of its forebears is now in tatters. This loss will have consequences and the first of those is to personnel.

Neil McKenzie’s international career appears finished, Morne Morkel has been sent back to grow a brain in domestic cricket and Graeme Smith has broken his hand twice in three matches.

Former vice-captain Ashwell Prince dropped after being injured early on the tour of Australia has been reinstated as Smith’s replacement as opener but has been overlooked for the captaincy. Curiously, Jaques Kallis will lead at Newlands, the fourth skipper appointed in three Tests after McKenzie led in Smith’s absence in Sydney and Boucher similarly at Kingsmead.

Wayne Parnell, a raw pace bowler has been added to the squad at Newlands as has Albie Morkel and Kwazulu-Natal opening bat Imraan Khan who scored a century against the tourists in the warm-up match at Potchefstroom.

With a new opening pair, captain and first-change bowler, South Africa now find themselves the underdog and with Australia confident, rested and settled the stunning reversal of fortunes between the top two Test nations is startling indeed.

Coach Mickey Arthur is concerned at the selectors lack of loyalty and faith in a team that has achieved so much and he is emphasising that South Africa will learn from defeat and strive to bounce back in the manner of the Australians who went 21 Tests without defeat (winning 20) after their upset loss to England in 2005.

With no chance of redemption until November South Africa’s next opponent, England, a team with an atrocious away record, will no doubt be in for a difficult and torrid winter tour.

It’s a wonderful game cricket and this marquee series has only confirmed its unpredictability and splendour. Australia has reminded the world that their everlasting succuss is not built on one team but on the firm foundation of a strong cricketing culture that permeates the nation like no other pursuit.

Their reign at the pinnacle of the game is set to continue for many years to come with the next obvious challenger, India, arriving in Australia after the 2011 World Cup. However, to earn that right India will also need to defeat South Africa when they meet next in 2010. It won’t be easy but being the world’s best never is.

Image: Getty

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Responses

  1. The Saffers do seem overly dependent on Graeme Smith to set the tone and deliver the belief that the team seems to lack. A team that has a core of Smith, Amla, Kallis, de Villiers, Duminy and Steyn will always be a handful, but Prince needs to underline his form and Steyn needs more support.

  2. It’s true so much of it seems to be based on Smith, but every team has its talisman. Border was the foundation for so long in Australia. Don’t forget through, it was de Villiers and Duminy who did alot of the work that lead to their victories in Perth and Melb.

    “the next obvious challenger, India, arriving in Australia after the 2011 World Cup” I read that with dismay. There’s just not enough test cricket these days, with all those ODI’s and 20/20 fluffery gumming things up. Australia doesn’t even play again until June. Another 3 months of The Guardian saying how competitive Eng will be with Aus! It’s why the performance and dominance of any one team is often arguable, the matches that are played are so varied in conditions, and infrequent.

    Interesting to see the fall-out from the series loss. At cricinfo, a very confidential look inside the SA selection committee revealing even Smith’s body language as Proctor started to speak. Have you moved your hidden mike from The Carribean to SA Tooting? The debacle of now-he’s-captain, now-he’s-not is a clear sign of confusion. Still, they got this far, they won’t throw it all away now, they’ll rebuild.

    • Clear thinking is always the exception in SA selection meetings!

      • I think if Prince was captain there was no way he was opening which seems fair enough as Amla did a reasonable job in Durban. Interesting that Kallis is reported to have said yes to the captaincy without hesitation. I’m looking forward to seeing how he handles the team and his own bowling.

        South Africa will have plenty of time to think about rebuilding. Their next Test match is in November!

  3. As an ardent SA fan, I was bitterly disappointed at the toothless showing of the South African team. All credit must be given to the Australians for SA’s poor 1st innings totals in both tests which put them under tremendous pressure from the get-go. It is very unfortunate that Smith suffered another injury and no doubt that did contribute as well to the teams demise.

    Prince wasn’t overlooked for the captaincy, he politely declined it to concentrate on the unfamiliar position of opening the batting.

    All is not lost however, he has just scored 254 opening the batting for his franchise the warriors, so lets hope he can carry that forward (from a SA perspective).

    Its also amazing to hear the doom and gloom from the SA public. I think SA and ENG have the most unforgiving supporters who change their moods as frequently as Pakistan change their captains.

    • I suspect Prince has made the right decision and good on him putting the well-being of the team ahead of his own glory. McKenzie was a middle order bat who went up the order, as did Atherton for England and Langer for Aus, so there is precedent.

      As an Englishman, I know all about disappointment when it comes to cricket, but it must rankle that the bowlers had Aus 38/3 and 296/7 in the First Test and let Aus get 466. Even at 206/2 in the chase, it wasn’t over, but SA folded. Of course, the opposition had plenty to do with what happened!!

  4. Great to read your thoughts JJ, we’ve often lamented the absence of a South African view at 99.94.

    Prince is a fine bat and as vice-captain it looked a slap in the face to leave him out of the two Tests completed although JP Duminy has been tremendous and the only other batsman who could possibly move aside was the captain’s opening partner Neil McKenzie.

    South Africa aren’t far off the mark and truth is Australia have played very disciplined cricket with bat and ball. The match at Newlands now has added significance and I’m most interested in Kallis’ performance because I’ve always been a big fan of the big man.

  5. Johnson in great form with good support from Siddle and Hilfenhaus is a good sign for the Aussies. Things are looking rosy for the Australians with Brett lee set to return and they have Shaun Tait in the bank too.

    They also found two good batters too in Marcus North and Phil Hughes. Its great for the aussies as they were able to quickly pick themselves up after a bad series at home.

  6. Yeah, thanks for having me. I will be a regular here hopefully.

    Looking forward to the 3rd test as well. hopefully South Africa save some face after reading the sub heading on cricinfo: “Australia now seem to have the wood on their favourite whipping boys for good”

    add that to the Reds Beating the Sharks, it was not a good time lately.

    In other news, the other debutant, Imran Khan also struck a fine century this weekend for Kwa-Zulu Natal.


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