Proteas in Australia

SA to curb Clarke, Hussey?

2012-11-28 12:03
Michael Clarke (Getty)
Cape Town – The optimistic take, if a cricket team of one’s choice is being pummelled in a series by particular batsmen, is to suggest of the next encounter: “Pah, they must be due to fail.”

Proteas enthusiasts are sure to be clamouring, then, for Australian captain Michael Clarke, who has double centuries in consecutive Tests against South Africa to his credit, and middle-order stalwart Mike Hussey (two of the single variety) to experience “corrections” of some magnitude when the teams lock horns in the decisive final encounter in Perth from Friday.

Australians, of course, will prefer to venture that they are batsmen in the most consummate of form and will simply inflict further suffering on the highly-touted touring attack.

But particularly in the case of Clarke, the dashing right-hander who currently sports a Test average of 76 against South Africa and a staggering 130 against the Proteas specifically on Aussie soil, the possibility exists that he may struggle to match the mental and physical hunger at the WACA that he demonstrated so compellingly at both Brisbane and Adelaide.

You would think there will at least some measure of frustration by “Pup”, after all, that his massive personal stamp on the series is yet to yield a victory for his charges ... not to mention a quiet fear in the back of the skipper’s mind that the Baggy Greens may have shot their load, without significant success in the results column, and that a momentum shift is potentially waiting to happen in the decider.

Like it or not in Australia, that is sure to be at least part of the way Gary Kirsten, Graeme Smith and company will be trying to pump up their own players for the high-stakes occasion at a venue where South Africa famously won, chasing down 414 in the fourth innings, last time out.

That said, considering the brutal manner in which he went about his first-innings business at Adelaide Oval, his 230 coming at a searing strike rate of 89, Clarke should not be especially footsore.

He will also be bidding -- although the tough ask is unlikely to be the foremost thing on his mind -- to become the first player ever to register double tons in three Tests on the trot.

Already, he is the first to register four double centuries in a single calendar year, considering his prior ones in the series against India during January, including a career-best treble (329 not out) at Sydney.

But 37-year-old Hussey, the Australian left-hander at No 6, is also experiencing something of a second honeymoon statistically in this series – and it has been very important to the cause, bearing in mind the pronounced ongoing struggle of another veteran, Ricky Ponting, to get among the runs against one of the country’s fiercest foes.

Ponting has been part of an Aussie top four that has, collectively, fired fitfully in the series thus far, although at least openers Ed Cowan and David Warner do have one ton each to boast.

The relative unease in slots one to four, critical positions in any Test team, has been masked so far by the exceptional performances at Nos 5 and 6 by Clarke and Hussey respectively – between them, this pair have registered as many as 784 of the 1298 runs (excluding extras) achieved off all Australian bats in the series.

South Africa will strongly feel, it is no surprise, that if they somehow manage to knock over the most in-form duo in the Baggy Greens’ line-up relatively cheaply each time on the fast-paced WACA surface, they might be a considerable way toward tilting the series balance their way.

Now which bowlers will stick their hands up for the overdue “Get the Michaels” job?

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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