Australia v South Africa, Second Test, Adelaide Oval: The keys to victory

After a seemingly extended break, albeit one of only a week, the second test of the summer is upon us with the currently under construction Adelaide Oval the venue.  Australia has named an unchanged line up for this fixture with Watson still out with a calf injury and Starc possibly the unluckiest player in the country at the moment.  South Africa have made the obvious change in bring in Tahir for the out of depth Kleinveldt and have replaced JP Duminy with Faf du Plessis.

Much has been made about the importance of this fixture in the context of this only being a three test series and there are so many previews out there that I do not intend to trump them in this post.  Keeping up the tradition of my posts from the first test at the Gabba though during this game I will again gaze into my crystal each day before play and present my five keys for each day.  Given that my crystal ball has not told me who will win the toss today I will kick things off with my five keys to victory for this test.

1. The Toss

Win the toss and bat: it is as simple as that.  Whilst the direct corralation between doing that and winning probably has not played out in some tests of recent times (Ashes 2006/07 a key example) it would be fair to say that the side that wins the toss in this fixture will be positively ebullient whilst the looser of the toss will need to lift the slumping shoulders of their fast bowlers.  The paradox with winning the toss and batting at Adelaide is that if things move swiftly in the Test the team batting last could find themselve batting in the most benign conditions.  However I am sure that is a risk both captains will be prepared to take. 

2. Into the Lyon’s den?

Home town hero Nathan Lyon returns for his second outing in Adelaide having spun Australia to victory with the wickets of Sehwag, Laxman and Tendulkar in the second innings at the same ground last year. With the Australians again one bowler short without the inclusion of Watson I expect Lyon to bowl a lot of overs into the wind in this fixture and whether he can contain a Protea top six seemingly hell bent on giving him some tap will be a large determiner of the outcome of this game.

3. Jacque’s back: 5th bowler or bit player?

Converse to the seemingly understrength Australian bowling line up, the attack of the South Africans looks much more balanced on paper with Kallis filling the key role of fourth seamer.  The “on paper” part of that sentence is vital however because in Brisbane Kallis, seemingly hampered by a sore back only bowled 12 overs out of the 138 bowled to the Australians during their mammoth first innings.  If Kallis does not bowl then the Proteas line up has a similar look to the Australians; viz., it looks one bowler short.

4. Clarke v Amla: the heavyweight batting championship of the world

Ignore the ratings of the ICC for the moment: Clarke and Amla are presently the two best batsmen in the world by a very very long margin.  In what presents as a three round contest to determine the batting champion for 2012 it would be fair to say that Clarke won the first round decisively in Brisbane.  That of itself is a tip of the cap to Clarke’s quality given that Amla’s batting in Brisbane was a joy to behold for any serious cricket fan.  When both of these modern day champions score runs they do so in big partnerships and their team more often than not wins. The winner of this second round of three in Adelaide may very well lead their team to victory in this fixture.

5. No balls: the Chris Lynn factor 

Pardon the obviously low brow pun arising out of the unfortunate injury to Chris Lynn’s private parts in the domestic one-day fixture in Brisbane last night because this is a serious issue.  After 3 wickets were overturned as a result of overstepping in Brisbane it may very well be the team that oversteps less in this test that wins the game.  That is how close this game might be.  Neither team can afford to be forced to get two or three wickets extra at a ground where historically getting a side out twice is a tall order.

I would love to see Australia win this game but I still do not believe they have picked the right team: the failure to select Mitchell Starc has left me scratching what little hair I have left.  South Africa should be refreshed after taking the rest of last week off in the tropics of Queensland and their bowlers will be looking to restamp their perceived dominance.  This test match again presents as a mouth watering encounter that should again stretch into the fifth day.  Play commences at 10:30am local time which is 10am for those on the eastern side of Australia (those of you in the daylight saving jurisdictions please adjust accordingly).