SA in Australia

Ageing 'leggie' for SA tour?

2009-02-03 12:49
New spin threat (File)
Rob Houwing

Cape Town – Australia, it seems, have a slightly questionable plan to bamboozle the Proteas on their South African tour -- by way of a veteran leg-spinner.

And no, his name is not SK Warne, as much as many fans of the Baggy Greens would dearly wish it to be so.

The Aussies are being tipped to include 36-year-old leg-break bowler Bryce McGain in their squad for the three Tests, starting in Johannesburg later this month.

Their travelling party will be named either on Wednesday or Thursday, and McGain has leapt back to the forefront of bowling plans, a key problem area at present, after a second-innings “five-for” as Victoria beat South Australia in a Sheffield Shield match on Monday.

McGain was due to debut for the Aussies on the tour of India last year, but then a shoulder injury meant he was sent home shortly before the first Test.

The AAP news agency reported on Tuesday that the Proteas’ “historic aversion to quality leg-spin will factor into the enthusiasm to put him on the plane”.

There is, of course, some truth to that statement, although the overwhelming majority of it had to do with the greatness of now-retired Warne, who often caused particular mayhem against South Africa.

For whether true Test-match “quality” applies to the yet uncapped McGain remains to be seen: even his first-class record is not special at this stage.

Despite being closer to 40 than 30, McGain has played only 20 first-class matches and averages a not-quite-special 33.66 with the ball.

Possibly not taken into account is the fact that present South African pitches tend to be more suited to seamers, while the Proteas collectively have shown far greater comfort against spin worldwide of late than they did four or five years back.

But McGain would at least bring an element of intrigue; some critics are suggesting he and off-spinner Nathan Hauritz will be the slow bowlers chosen for the South African assignment, with Jason Krejza unlucky to miss out.

Another new face is likely to be that of New South Wales opener Phillip Hughes, rather more youthful than McGain at 20.

He is right in the frame after successive knocks of 151 and 82 not out in NSW’s latest Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania at Newcastle.

Meanwhile, former Aussie captain Steve Waugh has told The Australian newspaper that the national team is not as badly off right now than it was during the last “trough” period some 25 years ago.

Waugh said: “I don’t think we are quite back to the mid-80s when we lost 16 players to a rebel tour (of South Africa) and Lillee, Marsh and (Greg) Chappell retired.

“We are in much better shape than that now. Look at the opening batting spot where you’ve got Chris Rogers, Phil Jaques, Phillip Hughes and Shaun Marsh as options. That’s an amazing array of riches for Australian cricket.”

This was a possible Test squad for South Africa suggested by the Perth-based West Australian newspaper on Tuesday:

Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke, Simon Katich, Phillip Hughes, Phil Jaques, Mike Hussey, Andrew McDonald, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus, Doug Bollinger, Bryce McGain, Nathan Hauritz, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris


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