SA’s triumph: Stinging Oz backlash

2016-11-16 14:00
Rod Marsh (Getty)

Cape Town – The Australian media have been so intent on lambasting their national cricket team that “Peppermintgate”, featuring Test series-winning South African captain Faf du Plessis, has been largely curtailed to a mere sideshow.

Video footage has emerged, in the aftermath of the Proteas’ second successive victory over the Baggy Greens in the three-Test series at Hobart, of Du Plessis chewing a mint in the field, sticking a finger into his mouth and then vigorously shining the ball.

But the incident received notably limited coverage in most major Aussie-based newspapers, with scribes clearly keener to pinpoint an array of problems in the Baggy Greens’ Test camp; they have now surrendered five matches on the trot in the format.

Thrashed by margins of 177 runs at the WACA and now an innings and 80 runs at Bellerive Oval, critics have gone for the jugular regarding Steve Smith’s beleaguered outfit.

Some of the sports-page lead headlines were pretty stark, with national daily The Australian ( splashing the words: “Disgrace to the Baggy Green”.

In writing terms, Greg Baum of the Melbourne Age ( cut straight to the chase: “It is the meekness that was so shocking. For so long the Australian cricket team’s hallmark has been its swagger and braggadocio … no longer.

“Tuesday’s surrender (in the second innings at Hobart) was even more abject than Saturday’s (first knock of 85 all out), trumping the several in Sri Lanka.

“In an hour and a half, Australia lost 8-32, to follow 10-83 in the first innings, 10-86 in Perth, and 10-83, 9-52 and 6-22 in Sri Lanka, each capitulation compounding on the next, each taking Australian cricket down another peg.

“Far from the cocky team even of last summer, they now look like a dog with its tail between its legs, which is a start, because everyone was wondering where the tail had gone.

“Not even in the dark hole of 2010-11, nor in the endless ‘middles ages’ of the 1980s was Australia this brittle.”

Baum said the Proteas’ part in the downfall should not be underestimated: “They came here seemingly undermanned, even decimated, but in fact were rejuvenated, as in made young again. They have demonstrated the one quality Australia sorely lacks: resilience.”  

Meanwhile in the Sydney Morning Herald ( columnist Peter FitzSimons ruefully inquired: “What the HELL is going on? I thought you’d never ask.

“The first and most obvious thing, based on their performance in Hobart is that – beyond the skipper Steve Smith – barely anyone seems to have a clue as to how to graft a Test innings.

“Where did all those wafty shots we saw in Hobart come from, those rushes of blood to the head, those needless snicks offered to balls that never had to be played?

“To my eyes they looked like … the modern version of ‘hit and run’ I used to play at school and family barbecues. It almost looked as if the skills, the grunt of Test cricket had been lost by our mob.”

There has already been a post-Hobart casualty, with selection chief Rod Marsh resigning.

But Australian writer for Daniel Brettig suggests coach Darren Lehmann may not be safe either:  “Lehmann had secured a long-term contract extension in August, which, on the face of it, is expected to see him through to the end of the 2019 Ashes series in England.

“However, as his predecessor Mickey Arthur can testify, a coach’s contract is only so binding as the ability of the governing body to pay it out if things get grim for the team. Lehmann was an excellent coach for an older team, and initially seemed the right man to help develop a new captain in Steven Smith.

“But he has been unable to arrest a batting slide that began in Sri Lanka, and his attacking philosophies, often light on detail, seem to require a greater technical and mental underpinning with this younger team.

“Should Cricket Australia move on Lehmann, Justin Langer has already enjoyed a successful stand-in stint in the recent past, a tri-series in the Caribbean.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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