Kepler: Hit ground running, SA!

2014-01-06 11:21
Kepler Wessels (File)

Cape Town – Dual South African and Australian international Kepler Wessels tips the Proteas to win a competitive Test series between the two proud nations from next month ... with the proviso that they eliminate their sleepy tendency in first Tests when hostilities begin at Centurion.

Wessels, still the best-qualified local critic on bilateral cricket issues considering his post-isolation captaincy of South Africa and prior 24 Tests with a batting average of 43 for the Baggy Greens, was speaking in an interview with Sport24 at Newlands on Sunday during the Ram Slam T20 Challenge triple-header.

This a full version of the chat with Rob Houwing ...

Just how much was Australia’s 5-0 Ashes sweep a product of English ineptitude?

It was a bit of both. Australia are certainly playing an awful lot better, but I also don’t think anyone could have envisaged beforehand how England would disintegrate on the tour and play so poorly.

Shane Warne has been talking up the Australian top four ... but won’t their batsmen still give a bowling attack like South Africa’s a good chance all the time?

Absolutely, they’re still not that solid as far as their batting is concerned. It is their weaker area. Chris Rogers has come through and done pretty well in this series at the top of the order, but the jury’s still out on him when he has to face really top-quality bowling. The same applies to Steve Smith and certainly to (George) Bailey at six, so there are holes there, for sure. (David) Warner is a bit hit and miss. He is a real factor if he gets going – he gets his runs quickly and creates a lot of time in the game -- but when the ball is nipping around a bit he will offer opportunities to good bowlers.

Your thoughts on Michael Clarke’s appraisal of his pace attack as world’s best?

Look, I do think they’re a good attack. Having four seamers at their disposal gives them a well-balanced look and makes a huge difference. So while Watson is able to bowl it makes them competitive because they’ve got Mitchell Johnson who provides the fear factor and the other guys are very solid: they don’t give much away and create a lot of pressure. I think the South African attack is still better – but it will be a fine contest between them.

Johnson has seemed so revitalised, but can the SA batsmen sow fresh disorder in his mind if they manage to get on top of him straight away?

Yes, some of our guys have played against him quite a bit so he’s not really a mystery element. He does blow hot and cold by reputation though he appears to have found consistency over the last five Test matches. His run-up is a lot better and he’s bowled routinely very quickly, something he hasn’t always done. If he maintains that sort of form he’ll be a handful, no doubt. He provides the aggression while the other guys create the pressure.

What sort of effect might the designated Test venues have?

I think Centurion and Newlands could go either way; the ball ought to do more than enough at both to get results either way. It will all depend on who handles which attack better, because generally it’s going to be a shootout between the two bowling sides. You never know what you’re going to get at St George’s Park so that is the sort of unknown factor in the equation.

So specifically spicing up any of the series tracks is not such a good idea? Good cricket wickets would be better?

I think if we spice them up them matches will become a lottery, and there’s no reason (to want that by No 1-ranked South Africa). You don’t want games ending in three and a half days. If we get good pitches we’ll see some really good, normal Test cricket, while still getting results, so that seems the more sensible option.

Long-range prediction, Kepler?

I think we will win. But we will also have to be right on top of our game straight away and not ease into the series, like we’ve done in several of late. We must be on the money from the word go. The one thing with Australia is that if you give them an early sniff they’ll be all over you. We don’t want them getting away well because it will spell trouble.

What are your thoughts on the first post-Kallis Test selection by South Africa?

I don’t think we have much of an option. We must back the top six we have and then go for an all-rounder at No 7, so the likes of Ryan McLaren come into the equation, and then back our regulation bowling attack. You need someone who can sort of hold the game a bit from a seam point of view. If JP Duminy is our only spin bowler I think the Australians will go after him, and then there would be a lot of pressure on Dale, Vernon and Morne ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    kepler wessels  |  cricket

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