The 3rd test came to an end yesterday, with the Michael Clarke described “grand final” not going the way of the Australian team as they were thumped by the world’s best red ball cricket team from South Africa.
As I flew from Port Hedland to Perth yesterday afternoon so as to be in Perth for the fifth day of the test match that did not eventuate I had time to give some consideration to the game and some of the performances of the key, and not so key, players for each side.
An easy place to start is the retirement of Ricky Ponting. I think we all knew he was under pressure, some journalists made it their mission to make sure he was under pressure even if Cricket Australia did not seem to be suggesting he was. Even so I was shocked to hear that he was retiring at the end of this test match. His performances in this series and indeed in this game were not cognisant with those of the Ponting of old however we still did see glimpses of his greatness. I don’t think Australian fans will fully appreciate how much R T Ponting will be missed until the Ashes in the middle of next year.
The “resting” of fast bowlers Siddle and Hilfenhaus for such an important game and the inclusion of a bowler many had put into the “has been” category in Mitchell Johnson and a debutant in John Hastings surprised and infuriated many. It might be stating the obvious but this experiment did not work given the haste with which the Proteas scored in the second innings of this match. I thought Hastings acquitted himself well as did Mitchell Starc however with Shane Watson again, it would seem, on limited bowling duties the need for a genuine bowling allrounder in this side was again glaringly obvious. Whether Hastings is the man for the job remains to be seen.
The batting of Amla was again sublime in this game and AB de Villiers got the “monkeys” in the media off his back by scoring his first hundred since Mark Boucher’s unfortunate accident in the UK. More importantly for the Proteas, Vernon Philander showed the form that has seen him dominate batting orders the world over and took some big wickets. As did Dale Steyn, who finally seemed to find form and his self proclaimed “crazy eyes”. The former medium pace bowler in me felt some joy watching these two bowlers at the top of their games even though they were bowling to an Australian team I hoped would win this test and win it well.
Speaking of batting, it goes without saying that whilst some of Australia’s wickets could be put down to the excellent bowling efforts of the Proteas it can also be said that Australia’s batsmen also contributed to their own downfall with some poor, and particularly aggressive in some cases, shot selection. Whether this is a hangover from the shortest form of the game I am not going to speculate however it would be fair to say the difference between the two teams in this series ended up being that one team could bat for long periods to secure a draw and the other could not.
Attention now turns, for Australian fans, to the start of the series against the Sri Lankans at Bellerive Oval on 13 December. Of course Cricket Australia has done the national team no favours in its scheduling with the Big Bash League starting this Friday so it will remain to be seen whether the team selected can remain in red ball cricket form on the most bowler friendly pitch in the country. There will be much interest in the replacement of Ricky Ponting for this game and readers should watch this blog over the coming days for my views on the potential replacement options.