Australia v South Africa, 2nd test, Day 2: the 5 keys

Yesterday I wrote about the 5 keys to winning the test match at the Adelaide Oval: in amongst those points were two that this morning stick out. They were:

1. Will Kallis be a full 5th bowler? and
2. Who will win the heavyweight batting championship of the world between Clarke and Amla?

It is pretty obvious that Kallis’ bowling was going to be vital in this game and his spell of five overs was up there with some of the best he has bowled for some years. Then he got hurt and did not bowl the rest of the day. This leaves a massive hole in the bowling attack for the Proteas: the bowling figures of Tahir alone reveal this.

How many superlatives can one use to describe the batting of Captain Clarke? A scan of the papers this morning has a common denominator through it: the inclusion of the word “Don” headlines reporting the feats of the Captain. Enough said really.

So onto today: what are the keys to success today at the Adelaide Oval?

1. The Clarke Supremacy

Captain Clarke has the look of a man possessed at the moment in the form of his life. His destruction of Morne Morkel over one over shows just how well he is batting. It seems to me that he can bat for as long as he wants and it is not out of the realm of possibility for Lara’s record to be in jeopardy. It will really just come down to how long he wants to bat.

2. Can Tahir recover from the onslaught?

Much was made in commentary of the journey man nature of Imran Tahir’s career and he will need to rely on every ounce of experienced gained over that career today. 0-159 off 21 overs is not flattering reading by anyone’s standards and he presents as a key bowling option today for Smith in the absence of Kallis and with a question mark over his main seamer Steyn.

3. Steyn’s hamstring

With Kallis already off the field, the sight of Dale Steyn hobbling off the field for treatment must have shaken the will of Smith to the very core. He returned to the field and finally got the ball back late in the day. When he finally did bowl he got the wicket of a very well set Hussey. If Steyn’s hamstring is ok his overs will be vital today if the Proteas are to restrain Australia’s scoring and get back in this game.

4. How many runs are enough?

Yesterday was fantastic for Australia and Australian cricket, of that there can be no doubt. However, it is simply to early for fans to start crowing and thinking thoughts only of victory. There are 4 days to go in this test match and the memories of teams scoring 500+ in their first innings and being bested in the Adelaide sun are still fresh. Only Captain Clarke knows how long he wants to bat but one suspects the number of runs he has in mind to bat the Proteas out of the game is around 650.

5. How long with Australia’s tail wag?

Linked to items 1 and 4 above is how the Australian tail will perform with the willow. The lower order, Wade included, needs to stay with the Captain as long as they can today because being 5 out and then all out within the first hour will rest some momentum away from Australia. If that scenario does play out then there is so much time left that there might still be the prospect of the Proteas making a game of it.

Another very interesting day beckons at the Adelaide Oval. Surely it can not be as exciting as yesterday? Or can it?

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).

Australia v South Africa, First Test: Player Ratings

The first test of this summer of cricket in Australia has come to its inevitable conclusion at the Gabba this afternoon with the teams playing out a draw.  Here are my ratings for the Australian and South African players from this game:

Australia

Cowan: 9 out of 10

In his first test match at the Gabba and seemingly under pressure to perform by players churning out runs at domestic level, Cowan scored his maiden test match century and did so in an assured fashion that belied his relative inexperience at this level.  A great test match for a still underrated player.

Read more here: http://thearmchairselector.com/2012/11/australia-v-south-africa-first-test-player-ratings/

Australia v South Africa: will Day 5 lead to a dreary draw?

Day 5 of the 1st test of this summer of cricket has dawned with Australian in an impregnable position 37 runs in front with 6 wickets in hand. With 95 overs to play it seems that the only genuinely available result for the teams at the end of today is a somewhat “dreary” draw.

However, with South Africa, it must be conceded, out of the game for Australia to win they will rely on the follow keys to success:

1. Getting the declaration right: Forget what the fools in the Channel 9 commentary box were saying yesterday: there was never any chance of Michael Clarke declaring whilst the Australian’s had their metaphorical foot on the throat of the South Africans. This is a 3 test series and breaking down the South Africans yesterday was much too important. Today however is a different story: making the declaration will be essential to any prospect of victory. So when is the right time? It strikes me that with the fire power in the South African batting line up at least 55 overs will be needed for the necessary 9 wickets to be taken which means a declaration 30 minutes after lunch is around the mark.

2. Will the real James Pattinson please stand up? There is some thought, and statistical back up to support it, that Pattinson bowls better in the second innings of games. Certainly last time out at the Gabba for Victoria, Pattinson cut a swathe through the Queensland batting order in the second innings to take a 5 for and, indeed, on debut against the Black Caps last year bowled one of the best spells seen at the Gabba in some time in the second innings of that game. If Australia is any chance of success Pattinson must fire today.

3. How will the pitch play? It would be pretty fair to say that the pitch is fairly benign at present and is just excellent for batting. This wicket has all the hallmarks of the pitch put out in the 1st test of the 2010 Ashes series when England, anchored by 235 not out from A Cook, batted for an extended period to save the game. I don’t expect any demons in the wicket today on the basis of that evidence and the evidence of yesterday. A pitch so benign will do Australia no favours.

4. Where are the South Africans mentally? Yesterday would have been a massive shot to the ego of this very good South African team. Much vaunted as the best bowling attack in the world they failed to take a wicket by ordinary means and were dominated by a batting line up under broad questioning about form and selection. Whilst I have no doubt the South Africans are a bit flat this morning over their eggs on toast, this still is the best team in the world so I expect them to come out mentally prepared to save the game today. This again will do Australia no favours.

So where does all of this leave us: I think it is pretty safe to say that today will petter out to a dreary draw at around 4pm Brisbane time. There is just too much class in the South African batting line up for there to be any other result. As an Australian fan though I am allowed to dream and if all of a sudden the South Africans are 3 down for not many chasing 180 odd to avoid an innings defeat it might be the right time for Australia to exorcise the demons of Sydney in 1993.

Australia v South Africa: will Day 5 lead to a dreary draw?

Day 5 of the 1st test of this summer of cricket has dawned with Australian in an impregnable position 37 runs in front with 6 wickets in hand. With 95 overs to play it seems that the only genuinely available result for the teams at the end of today is a somewhat “dreary” draw.

However, with South Africa, it must be conceded, out of the game for Australia to win they will rely on the follow keys to success:

1. Getting the declaration right: Forget what the fools in the Channel 9 commentary box were saying yesterday: there was never any chance of Michael Clarke declaring whilst the Australian’s had their metaphorical foot on the throat of the South Africans. This is a 3 test series and breaking down the South Africans yesterday was much too important. Today however is a different story: making the declaration will be essential to any prospect of victory. So when is the right time? It strikes me that with the fire power in the South African batting line up at least 55 overs will be needed for the necessary 9 wickets to be taken which means a declaration 30 minutes after lunch is around the mark.

2. Will the real James Pattinson please stand up? There is some thought, and statistical back up to support it, that Pattinson bowls better in the second innings of games. Certainly last time out at the Gabba for Victoria, Pattinson cut a swathe through the Queensland batting order in the second innings to take a 5 for and, indeed, on debut against the Black Caps last year bowled one of the best spells seen at the Gabba in some time in the second innings of that game. If Australia is any chance of success Pattinson must fire today.

3. How will the pitch play? It would be pretty fair to say that the pitch is fairly benign at present and is just excellent for batting. This wicket has all the hallmarks of the pitch put out in the 1st test of the 2010 Ashes series when England, anchored by 235 not out from A Cook, batted for an extended period to save the game. I don’t expect any demons in the wicket today on the basis of that evidence and the evidence of yesterday. A pitch so benign will do Australia no favours.

4. Where are the South Africans mentally? Yesterday would have been a massive shot to the ego of this very good South African team. Much vaunted as the best bowling attack in the world they failed to take a wicket by ordinary means and were dominated by a batting line up under broad questioning about form and selection. Whilst I have no doubt the South Africans are a bit flat this morning over their eggs on toast, this still is the best team in the world so I expect them to come out mentally prepared to save the game today. This again will do Australia no favours.

So where does all of this leave us: I think it is pretty safe to say that today will petter out to a dreary draw at around 4pm Brisbane time. There is just too much class in the South African batting line up for there to be any other result. As an Australian fan though I am allowed to dream and if all of a sudden the South Africans are 3 down for not many chasing 180 odd it might be the right time for Australia to exercise the demons of Sydney in 1993.