Australia in SA
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Clarke tips Lopsy battle
Cape Town - The Australians are bracing themselves for a Proteas attack that will include leg-spinner Imran Tahir and left-arm seamer Lonwabo Tsotsobe in the first Test at Newlands from Wednesday, if Michael Clarke has his intelligence correct.
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The Aussie captain said as much at his pre-match press briefing at the rain- and wind-lashed venue on Tuesday.
Local thought has tended to lean toward South Africa indeed handing a Test debut to Tahir, at the expense of incumbent slow bowler Paul Harris, but prolific Cape Cobras wicket-taker Vernon Philander eclipsing Tsotsobe for the position of first-change bowler.
Nevertheless, Clarke believes the lanky left-armer from the Warriors will instead keep his Test place (he turned out the last time the Proteas played a Test, at the same venue against India last season).
“Philander was a good bowler (in the SA ‘A’ game against the Aussies in Potchefstroom) but I don’t think he’ll play. I think they’ll play the three quicks who played the one-dayers (Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Tsotsobe).
“I think they’ll stick with Tsotsobe, who has good control ... but again it’s their choice. We’ve studied all their bowlers.”
Clarke is especially adamant that Tahir will be preferred to Harris if the Proteas, as now anticipated, do only go in with one spinner.
“I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t play, yes. I think on that wicket spin will play a big part; he’s a very good bowler and a wicket-taker.
“On the other side of things they’ve got Paul Harris who has experience and has played against us before. Me as a captain? Who’d I pick? I’d pick Tahir.
“But I’m not the South African captain so I don’t need to worry about that.
“A lot of (the Aussie players) have played against Tahir in county cricket, and a few fortunately also in the warm-up game ahead of the last World Cup - but we’ve looked at a lot of footage too.
“He’s got a handful of variations that he likes to bowl quite often - as I said, he’s an attacking bowler.”
Asked by Sport24 whether he thought the South African speedsters may be short on stamina, given that they haven’t played an extended-format match for several months, Clarke said: “I hope so ... I hope we can bat well enough to find out. That’s more important.
“The better we bat the more it’ll take out of their attack, knowing they haven’t played much five-day cricket.
“It takes it out of all bowlers if you have to, say, bowl for two days in a row, and it certainly does take it out of you as both a bowling and fielding unit if you haven’t played much Test cricket (previously).”