SA’s tail has critical job

2014-02-13 22:40

Centurion - The Proteas face a nerve-jangling first session of the middle day of the first Test against Australia at SuperSport Park here on Friday.

SA v Oz - Day 2 as it happened

Their immediate task, of course, is to try to take any follow-on temptation out of the hands of Aussie captain Michael Clarke by dragging South Africa’s sickly first innings total to the relative sanctuary of 198 or more.

That is still 58 runs away, with four wickets in hand ... it could go either way, especially if Mitchell Johnson again fancies a lethal combination of both bodily harm and productive activity in the wickets column.

Much may depend on whether AB de Villiers, only very recently fit again after a significant layoff but showing a combination of guts and skill to keep Johnson and company reasonably at bay with his unbeaten half-century, can knuckle down once more.

If he is ripped out early, the job of avoiding the possible follow-on will be that much harder, even if Robin Peterson has looked fairly assured in the infant stages of his innings and Vernon Philander, next in at No 9, is determinedly revisiting his all-rounder credentials these days.

Ideally, the under-the-cosh South Africans must aspire to not only inching their way to 198, but then occupying the crease for as long as possible thereafter.

It is important because of the nature of this series, where the three Tests are virtually back to back and how much time each bowling unit has to endure under the unforgiving late summer sun could play a role in determining which way the eventual spoils go.

The Proteas had to send down 122 overs in the Highveld heat as the Aussies, debatably asked to take first strike, registered a touch under 400 runs.

So far, the Baggy Greens’ attack – although featuring just four specialists to the hosts’ five -- have only been required to bowl around a third of that tally, and if they mop up the remaining SA batsmen quickly, will be significantly less footsore after the first-knock combat.

It then begs the question of whether Clarke would, in fact, enforce the follow on if the luxury presents itself.

It would be a powerful, humiliating psychological statement to make against the No 1-ranked side in the world, offering not only the possibility of a valued early finish to this Test, but the chance that the Proteas would end up being the ones bowling last and getting more fatigued in that respect if the Aussies can be set a target of some kind.

But Clarke will also be well aware not only that bowling straight away again makes special physical demands on the bowlers, but that Graeme Smith’s charges have a modern hallmark as a notably tenacious – and sometimes even heavy-scoring -- second-knock side.

It cannot be ruled out that he would opt instead to bat, under relatively little pressure, and make sure South Africa are the ones batting last on a deteriorating surface.

Left-arm thunderbolt Johnson, the individual premier performer of day two, was understandably cagey about follow-on prospects when asked by Sport24 after Thursday’s play whether he fancied an immediate second crack at the Proteas batsmen, should it be an option.

“We’ve still got four wickets to get, and AB is still in. We’ve got a long way to go, so that’s what we need to focus on: getting ourselves right tonight and then turning up in the morning.

“We know Peterson can score runs as well, and their tail can score runs ... they’ve done it to us in the past.”

Johnson was no doubt thinking momentarily about the epic, match- and series-turning ninth-wicket alliance between JP Duminy (166) and unlikely partner Dale Steyn (career-best 76) at Melbourne in 2008/09.

If South African enthusiasts want to try to bank any good omens right now, Johnson was in the Aussie side then, and Steyn will return to the crease at No 10 in this particular innings.

“We don’t want them to get away from us, and then we’ll (take things) from there,” Johnson added.

“The ball wasn’t swinging too much so I thought I’d dig it in a bit more. There were a few cracks out there, from quite early on ... I don’t know if it is quite a WACA-like wicket, but it felt there was something in it when I was out there batting and seeing how some balls carried through.

“There was something different, when you went a bit back of a length. I do like bowling on pitches like that ... it’s probably more inconsistent than you’d see at the WACA, though.”

Perhaps “inconsistency” isn’t a word the Proteas fancy hearing about the pitch, considering the bruising they have already taken on it.

Their renowned powers of resilience are being tested, once more ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


  • hornynick - 2014-02-13 23:12

    Duminy, Smith, Peterson. Time to go. Miller and De Kock must be brought in. SA cricket in a spiral.

      Theuns Jacobs - 2014-02-14 05:44

      Hell nick, I could not agree more. I will even add faf to that bunch. They rely on amla and AB to score runs, if they don't then we are in k*k. I won't be surprised if smith injure his finger again to avoid johnson for the rest of the tour. Smith and peterson must voetsek! Bring in de kok!!

      Deon Louw - 2014-02-14 08:24

      Smith and Faf have saved many games for us and won a few, don't write them off yet. An average for close to 50 by Smith is great. We are still in this game.

      BJ Pieman - 2014-02-14 10:31

      Deon, in the era of flat pitches, hi-tech bats, and Bangladesh an average of under 50 is certainly not great.

  • Anele Booi - 2014-02-13 23:23

    When you talk about nonsense you talk about Smith

  • Riaan Ferreira - 2014-02-13 23:39

    Dear Proteas, Respect the Aussies, take the shine off the ball for the first 15/20 overs. Leave as much as you have to and then go for the glory shots. Smith an absolute snorter today. No player in the world would've enjoyed facing that particular delivery.

  • Andre Müller - 2014-02-14 00:05

    Proteas, I am sure you will know this, but Johnson has a weakness. I am not sure why you have not discovered it in prep time, but AB surely had the right idea. Don't study Johnson... study AB! He is truly a leader and has my vote after Smith retires. Smithy, when you make a bold move to bowl first on a perfectly good batting pitch... make sure you back it up with runs yourself. Ja, the ball that got you was a ripper - but you should have known better and prepared for it... bowling machines can do almost anything, you know?

      oldman.vic.5 - 2014-02-14 00:20

      For guys like JP who still like to try and hit almost everything that comes their way - get Stick Cricket from the App Store

      UNITY - 2014-02-14 08:14

      Lol.. Couldn't agree more.. De villiers plays brilliantly... Selectors are to phased with this no.1 tag.. They TOO scared to make changes.. I haven't seen Duminy scoring a century in centuries.. I don't think we will.. And definitely not in this series.. I'll even bet on it,u won't even need to matchfix! His bowling does not suffice. We have young players waiting to come into the squad...

  • oldman.vic.5 - 2014-02-14 00:17

    Ja Rob. SA's tail has a critical job: Stert tussen die bene bedek die skaamte.

  • Jon Low - 2014-02-14 04:01

    The argument over which of the two teams has the better bowling attack has been settled. On the pitch, not on paper. Dale, Vern and Morne are not #1.

      Dwain Trollip - 2014-02-14 06:03

      There is no doubt that this attack is good when IN FORM.the challenge comes in when they have to do it CONSISTENTLY for YEARS and on the SUB-CONTINENT.over a 5 year period I would rather chose our fitter and consistent bowlling than theirs.

      Piet Genade - 2014-02-14 06:05

      Too early to say. Johnson has been the stand-out bowler on display but I haven't been overly impress with Australia's other bowlers. I doubt if they have a better bowling unit.

      Zoheb Hassan - 2014-02-14 08:36

      Philander is supposed to be no 1 in the ranking and took zero wickets, we complain how useless peterson is but at least he took two wickets.. It shows that paper means nothing when on the pitch and the aussies are talking on the pitch

      Leon de Villiers - 2014-02-14 09:33

      For goodness sake. This is 1 game. S.A have been bowling consistently well for the last couple years. Now after 1 failure now they are k*k... Please just use your brains.

      Liam Knight - 2014-02-14 10:28

      Piet, as an aussie i'm consistently surprised with Harris, rarely has a bad game and occasionally takes a bag. Siddle seems to be a bowler you can either play easily or can't play at all, he finds his 1 or 2 bunnies and consistently gets him out. Nathan Lyon imo is the worst bowler in test cricket to have taken 100 wickets, cant argue with results but im more than surprised by this. for the time being your bowling attack is deserving of the 'best in the world' title having performed consistently for a few years, but prior results only count for so long

  • David Botha - 2014-02-14 04:15

    Smith nearly kd his pants when Johnson charged up and he probably couldnt see through the tears in his eyes

      Wayne van Straaten - 2014-02-14 05:36

      I have seen now for the first time in quite a bit; there's a fast bowler on the horizon that really scares batsman. Not probably since the days of Waqar Younis has a bowler caused hysteria as Johnson. His shorter faster delivery is really quick. I am a Protea through and through. But have to admit, those two dismissals of Faf and Greame, there was nothing the batsman could have done differently.

      Theuns Jacobs - 2014-02-14 05:48

      Smith take your pads off, and rather borrow a nappy. He had to change his pants after that ball, no wonder he didn't want to bat first.

  • michael.kleber.376 - 2014-02-14 05:32

    We laughed at the poms when they crumbled now we are doing the same , Johnson damaged a few English careers is he going to do the same here

  • Siakha Bin Gxagxa - 2014-02-14 05:45

    I don't understand why people are crucifying Biff & Faf as if they trew their wickets away. Alviro & Jp did. The later two got Snorters from johnson. My God that boy is quick reminds me of Shoiab aktar in 1999 CWC

  • Luke Nickola - 2014-02-14 05:52

    Why has "Al weer ou Peterson" not come in for criticism?

  • John Jessup - 2014-02-14 06:13

    Forget the debate on who has the best bowling attack. From what we've seen so far they are better in all three departments. I fear we are in for the same treatment as England. Hopefully it will lead to the same overdue shake-up in the team management and the team.

      Liam Knight - 2014-02-14 10:32

      overdue? your the number 1 ranked test side... normally you wouldn't desert the sinking ship until they've slipped to 3 or 4 in the rankings. I still think the SAF top 6 over the last 2 years is the best since the mid 2000s australian side

  • Deolin Willemse - 2014-02-14 06:14

    Faf and Morkel must eff off way overrated and their medicore performances are constantly overlooked... McLaren is completely out of his depth as an allrounder and is better suited to the shorter versions! Smith and Petersen are just as useless

      Piet Genade - 2014-02-14 06:30

      Morkel should be doing much better and Faf is iffy. There are unfortunately a lot of iffy players in the side

  • Vaibhav Rahangdale - 2014-02-14 06:41

    SA not able to win without KALLIS. It's the end of winning era.

  • Justin Curtis - 2014-02-14 08:11

    Oh my word its so typical South African fans!!! completely writing off your team after a well deserved Aus start to the test,and then completely dissing our players!!! unfortunately that the way the game works we cant always be the best on the day. At least we still have the no 1 batsmen in the world out in the middle and he has some support to follow, so give the boys a chance. I'm telling you guys this test is far far far but over!!! The management should just take a look at AB you cant expect you're no 1 batsmen to keep wicket and perform with the bat every single time. the work load is to heavy for AB. Go boys go!!!

  • John Jessup - 2014-02-14 08:12

    St Valentine day's massacre!

  • Vaibhav Rahangdale - 2014-02-14 08:32

    Dale + Morne + Vernon = JOHNSON So AUS have world's best bowling attack.

      Vaibhav Rahangdale - 2014-02-14 08:39

      SA don't have any world class spinner.

      Justin Curtis - 2014-02-14 09:06

      Hey Bud its but only the beginning, granted Johnson has had a great Summer but don't start throwing are boys away.

      Liam Knight - 2014-02-14 10:33

      calling Lyon a world class spinner? Im sure he's as surprised as the rest of us when he takes a wicket

  • Byron Wright - 2014-02-14 09:14

    How bad is JP Duminy!!!ESPN cric info has his average at 32.88 and he is yet to reach a 1000 test runs! Are those stats correct? I feel like I am taking crazy pills.

  • Sean Tearnan - 2014-02-14 09:28

    As usual the armchair critics are at it. Can they do better...? and if you want to replace Smith, peterson, morkel, faf who u gona replace them with.....yourself. we have developed a knack if starting slow and then coming from behind for years which must be addressed though. I must admit though a few of out batsmen look terrified of facing Mitch. AB showed our batsmen how to play him. Mitch is good but not that good. Come on SA

  • Baainaar Hofman - 2014-02-14 09:38

    Robbie please dont bail them out of this mess they have short memories of the times u saved SA uv done ur part by taking 2crucial wickets

  • Baainaar Hofman - 2014-02-14 09:45

    From a cricket perspective this is my honest opinion Replace alviro with quin,duminy with Rilee,mclaren with either wiese or parnell and morkel with Hendricks

  • Baainaar Hofman - 2014-02-14 09:45

    From a cricket perspective this is my honest opinion Replace alviro with quin,duminy with Rilee,mclaren with either wiese or parnell and morkel with Hendricks

      Sean Tearnan - 2014-02-14 09:59

      Quin may be a bit raw but that may be his advantage. Would go with Parnell. Would leave Morkel. We need a bowling coach to make those 2 bowl aggressive like Mitch and get them fit. With there height and pace they should scare the pants off the opposition. Faf is not a No 4. Hash needs to get his groove back quickly

  • Johan Arno Cilliers - 2014-02-14 10:00

    JP Duminy..What a moron

  • pages:
  • 1