Australia in SA

SA set sights on series kill

2011-11-11 16:47
Gary Kirsten (Gallo Images)
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – One-nil up in a uniquely short Test series against old foes, South Africa have a golden opportunity now to earn that elusive first home triumph over Australia since their return from isolation at the Wanderers next week.

The second and last Test begins on Thursday at the Bullring, and as much as a wounded animal – in this case the Baggy Greens – can be a dangerous prospect, the quality of the Proteas’ great jailbreak at Newlands here tends to suggest the host nation should be at least be capable of not losing in Johannesburg.

From a situation where an ill-prepared side were seemingly on the ropes and in danger of following on in the first Test, the Proteas suddenly hold the whip hand and are just as likely as the humbled Aussies to only improve on the Highveld.

Although the recent heat-wave up north could mean a pitch that shows signs of deterioration as the Test grinds on, it would seem to make sense for the host nation to anticipate a relative batting belter at the Wanderers, with little in the way of exaggerated seam movement as evidenced at a damper Newlands for good portions of the first match.

All that stands in the way of a successful series close-out, you would think, is the South Africans’ strangely rocky record against Australia at the ground in the post-unity period.

South African last beat Australia in a Test series in this country in 1969/70, the season of Ali Bacher’s immortals who earned a 4-0 clean sweep, but have not been able to prevail in five series attempts in the more modern era.

And the Proteas’ record against the Aussies at the Wanderers is especially bad, losing four on the trot there after a 1994 victory by 197 runs – the quartet of subsequent losses includes unpalatably heavy ones in 1997 by an innings and 196 runs and an innings and 360 runs in 2002.

But they must have scored some major psychological points at Newlands, and victorious captain Graeme Smith is well aware that the schizophrenic nature of the first Test indicated that his team are yet to fully hit their straps after an early season too dominated by limited-overs activity.

“We can improve a lot,” he said after helping lead the charge to Friday’s giddy win with his unbeaten 101.

“We bowled a lot better in the second innings than the first, where we were neither here nor there in terms of our lengths. (Michael) Clarke played really well for Australia but we also let him go a bit.

“Hopefully the graph now will only grow for us.”

The most anonymous specialist bowling role-player in the first Test for the Proteas turned out to be debutant leg-spinner Imran Tahir, who bowled only 10 reasonably humdrum overs in the Aussie first innings and then wasn’t even required for the amazingly short second.

But as Smith pointed out: “It’s very difficult on a wicket like that for somebody like Imran, who is an attacking slow bowler.

“He will grow in confidence and get to understand things like his first-innings role and how the strip is playing.

“There wasn’t a lot on offer for him. He’ll have learnt a lot and will still play a big role for us ahead.”

There will be some discussion, no doubt, about trying to fit in Lonwabo Tsotsobe to the Wanderers mix, given his ability to generate uncomfortable bounce, but it is also hard to see coach Gary Kirsten and company tampering too much with a team that has just thumped Australia by eight wickets, whatever the bizarre circumstances of the game ...

Read more on:    australia in sa  |  australia  |  proteas
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