Aussie bowling loses aura

2008-12-15 15:05

Rob Houwing

It is often advisable not to resort to “now or never” sort of terminology. They are strong words.

“Never”? Are you trying to tell me, with assuredness and science, that in the next 100 or 200 years South Africa will still not have managed a Test series conquest Down Under?

Even if Graeme Smith’s class of 2008/09 have failed?

There is no way of knowing, after all, whether or not the Proteas will one day – why, maybe even within the next decade -- field a team simultaneously featuring their own Bradmanesque batting equivalent and Warney-clone champion spinner.

At the same time, though, those who strongly sense “opportunity like seldom before” to break an eight-series Aussie-soil duck, stretching back to 1910/11, cannot be faulted for their belief.

I will focus exclusively on the Australian bowling attack for best fuel for that theory: it will, you see, be the least experienced, and pertinently least aura-laden, in many a year to hurl leather at their fierce southern hemisphere rivals.

A fascinating, educative set of statistics came to light when I trawled the Sydney Morning Herald website this week.

The respected organ ran a panel comparing the likely Australian quartet of front-line bowlers for the first Test at the WACA with the four who did duty in the first Test at precisely the same venue in 2005/06.

Then, the home attack was made up of Glenn McGrath (116 Tests to that point and 534 wickets), Brett Lee (46 and 179), Nathan Bracken (4 and 10) and Shane Warne (132 and 645). It amounted to a combined tally of 298 Test caps, and a lofty 1368 wickets.

Favoured attack

Compare that to the favoured attack (though it is possible off-spinner Jason Krejza will be omitted for Shane Watson) for the Test starting on Wednesday: Lee (now 74 Tests and 309 wickets), Mitchell Johnson (15 and 61), Peter Siddle (1 and 4) and Krejza (1 and 12).

That amounts to 91 Tests and 386 wickets – a massive come-down on both “numbers” fronts from just three years previously.

The situation is made all the more acute by the belated Perth pull-out through injury of Stuart Clark – probably for the series.

Here is a street-smart seamer, after all, who directly replaced McGrath when the veteran spearhead opted out of the tour of South Africa in 2005/06 because of his wife’s illness, and promptly was player-of-the-series on Aussie debut with 20 wickets at 15.75!

So the Australians are now deprived of yet another bowler who could at least claim some meaningful degree of mental stranglehold over the Proteas.

It goes without saying, of course, that McGrath and especially the indefatigable Warne have consistently provided torment and heartbreak for South Africa in the post-isolation era.

This is the first time neither nemesis will on the proverbial paddock.

Not very far behind

Warne has played every one of 24 Tests against South Africa since the end of apartheid, claiming 130 gleeful scalps at an average of just under 25. (In Australia itself, over 12 Tests, he has taken 69 wickets against the “Saffers” at 24.04.)

McGrath is not very far behind, boasting 57 wickets at 27.33 against South Africa, and his mere, snarling “presence” often having a rabbit-in-the-headlights effect on the meeker-willed of Proteas batsmen.

At the pace-friendly WACA this week, though, Smith’s troops will face up to just one survivor of the old guard in Lee, now 32 and quite possibly receding from his most ferocious heyday.

Lee has bowled some limb-pounding spells against South Africa, but has also been less of a wicket-taking factor against them than either Warne or McGrath – his 22 poles have come at 33.40, which is worse than his overall Test bowling average of 30.11 at present.

Johnson, Siddle and Krejza? Their Test experience against the Proteas amounts to a collective, fat zero. So as much as they will be intriguing “unknowns”, they will also sport no history of psychological advantage whatsoever.

When all is said and done, my gut feeling is still to marginally fancy Australia to nick the series on home soil.

But that is not to say the Proteas don’t have one helluva shot at finally capsizing the ever-so-slightly listing juggernaut in its own waters.

No Aussie attack is ever likely to bowl marshmallows all day at South Africa. But the days of Warne and McGrath fizz-bomb carnage are gone, too, and it is a perfect time to attempt to cash in …

Rob is Sport24's chief writer.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24. 


  • Anonymous User - 2008-12-15 16:16

    Enough talk! Bring it on.....

  • Anonymous User - 2008-12-15 16:54

    Never underestimate the Aussies in any area of the game. Clarke's injury will, I'm sure, give another very highly skilled and talented bowler a chance and their batsmen normally come up with a big score. One must never perceive their decline after their loss in India.

  • Cire - 2008-12-15 17:26

    Did you know that Aussies refer to SAfricans as 'japies' rather than 'saffers'?

  • Pop Idol - 2008-12-15 17:55

    This lousy SA cricket team will NEVER be able to beat Australia....I cant wait to sit back and watch and laugh out loud when Smith and his men walk off the field with their heads hanging low down.

  • Jack - 2008-12-15 19:08

    Yes, well there is a factor called mental strength that does not favour SA. Its a combination of confidence, self-belief, will-to-win and its based on culture and a history of success. SA has never won a series in Aus. In 63/64, we took a test off them, but drew the series. In 52/53 we went 1 better and took 2 tests, but still drew. Since these events, we have won just 1, in 1993/4 on a freakish SCG. History says SA will struggle to win there.

  • Paul - 2008-12-15 20:19

    I see 3 egg in favour of the Aussies.

  • Denzil - 2008-12-16 12:30

    Its talk like this that give our team the over confidence they dont deserve. It looks as if all they have to do to win the series is to pitch for the they have sometimes done in the past.Well Sir ...I have news for you..test matches are not won on paper !! 2 zip to the Aussies I'm afraid. But I hope I'm wrong....

  • RealityDan - 2008-12-16 12:34

    One of the biggest problems of any team playing OZ is in their team there is ALWAYS someone stepping UP! I don't know how they do it ..but they do ..and did.. and probably will! [Still ...silently I hoping I just put the curse on them!]

  • Amol - 2008-12-16 16:56

    A Drawn Series OR 2-1 in favour of South Africa.

  • Anonymous User - 2008-12-16 17:46

    we do call them saffers...maybe that is just us in western for a weaker bowling lineup? johnson will be an absolute star...faster than lee consistently plus left hander slanting across the long as he gets that line right its almost impossible to score...will be a good series with ntini and steyn well respected although i doubt the others will have an impact. In the batting stakes, Kallis will again lose or draw games as he always does batting in his bubble, though smith and de villiers will get them off to a lively start. The difference i believe, however, will be Hussey. He will always score runs with such a solid technique and quick running. Coming from WA he will also be used to the pace and bounce. Hoping for an interesting series, although a thumping by the Aussies will also suffice

  • Raj - 2008-12-16 17:53

    Your inferiority complex will rub off on the South African Team, beware! Your analysis of the statistics of the collective experience of the bowling attack of the Aussies counts for a big fat zero.

  • billybob - 2008-12-16 17:55

    Cire, we Aussies refer to saffers as "hairy backs" for your information. Of course that is directed at saffers of dutch decent. The SA media and the protea's do a lot of talking but SA has had a lot of soft cricket lately. Everyone has been bagging lee but he is going through a mariage break up and that would stuff any one around. He looks like he is bowling well again. i'll give you all a tip, Johnson and Siddle are very good bowlers and very quick too. Siddle's first ball in test cricket Smashed into Gambir's helmet on a dead Indian track and he will be a handfull on Aussie tracks. Styen looks good but Australia is not England or the poor little bangers. Ntini will get carted if he bowls his usual pies and Morkel is good but too waywood alot of the time. The Australian Batting line up is much stronger than SA's as well. At least by the letters here most of the SA public at least has a grip on reality unlike the media. We will all see tomorrow anyhow won't we. 3-0 Australia.

  • Anonymous User - 2008-12-16 18:13

    The article aims to infer that SA has its best chance of wining in OZ; not that it will definitively win. I'm a keen follower, and think much the same. Lets aim to win the first session and take it from there. Goodluck lads!

  • MattP - 2008-12-16 22:57

    Man ive been looking forward to this for a LONG time. Our bowling is a little dodgey. But i dont c the problem with our batting...Smith is a bit of a lucky packet (it depends on which graeme arrives on the day) and Kallis & De Villiers are a worry...if they all get it right tho...its gonna b good. Good luck chaps

  • Steadfast - 2008-12-17 07:42

    I agree with you. The only problem we face is that Aussies have players that can step into role without having to play for a few years to find feet. The SA boys have to wind up the tail quickly and we could not do that against weak sides. With Steyn and Morkle close to breakdown with hamstring and ankle we might loose both in first test and then what. We will get hammered. Our batting was excellent against the weaker sides now lets see how we fair against the No 1 team. Go for it AB and Boucher.

  • Carl Kirstein - 2008-12-17 09:50

    I agree with Rob that we have our best chance in the past couple of years to beat Australia in Australia. We have team that has consistently performed well in the test the past 18 months with a player somewhere also rising to the occasion. I don't believe the quaking label is justified anymore, RSA is used to winning and have the hunger to win. I don't have clue what the results will be for this series, I am just getting ready for some spectacular cricket... bring on the heat as with the 438 game!

  • 2 - 2008-12-17 20:39

    Paul& Pop idol LOL!! I couldn't have said it better myself! 3-0 Australia!!! :D.... a rough start for them but they bounced back!! Binga has his work cut out for him!!! As well as Johnson, I think he's got potential!!

  • Amol - 2008-12-21 12:46

    Among the sea of all those 3-0 enthusiastic Aussie supporters screaming 3-0 for Australia, I had predicted something whatever my dumb brain had suggested. 2-1 in favour of South Africa. But that is not the bad news for Aussie supporters. What is, is that I am not even a South Africa supporter. As of today, SA has beaten Australia by 6 wickets, PERTH. Round 1: SA. Want to say something ?

  • Anonymous User - 2008-12-22 11:38

    Pop Idol, where are you now? Very quiet I see?? you still banking on that 3-egg victory by the Aussies. Suddenly Amol's "absurd" prediction of 2-1 in favour of SA doesn't seem too far fetched!!

  • Amol - 2009-01-02 15:56

    SA beat AUS in the 2nd Test by nine wickets. Now if my prediction (SA 2 : 1 AUS) goes right I will be happy. If my prediction goes wrong I will be MORE happy.

  • Amol - 2009-01-07 08:46

    Yes, It happened exactly as I predicted. SA 2 : 1 Aus. Only if Smith's finger had not been broken then definitely he would have effectively defended the Johnson ball and then lasted the next 11 BALLS to draw the test. My next prediction: (SA 3 : 0 Aus) in SA (Feb-Apr). And this time I have become an SA fan.

  • Amol - 2009-01-07 08:56

    ... And the next time, I hope to see Smith face Australia in Tests with a fully operational hand. Due those two defects he missed being the Highest run-getter of the series and finished Second. I predict he might be pretty good with no problems in his hand at home pitches.

  • Amol - 2009-01-07 09:44

    SA lost the dead rubber Third Test thriller in Sydney for four major reasons: 1. SA lost all the tosses in this series especially in the third one where the pitch was tricky & so toss was crucial. 2. All the eleven SA players were unchanged and played the whole tough series. That took a toll on their stamina and momentum. Meanwhile AUS had a fresh set of bowlers for Sydney except Johnson. 3. The highest Run getter of the series (atleast till pre-finger fracture) and the SA captain Smith was down and (almost) out due to multiple injuries. 4. Maybe, SA players were a bit slackened and lazy in the third innings waiting for the declaration to arrive and gave away excessive runs. Anyway, the difference between a draw and the loss was just five minutes OR eleven balls.

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