Cape Town – Even
while in the midst of currently see-sawing combat against top-ranked India, the
magnitude of South Africa’s quest to earn a maiden post-isolation home Test
series triumph over Australia is suddenly in even sharper focus.
Greens have just completed a widely-lauded, unexpectedly one-sided 4-0 Ashes
series victory over battered tourists England – with just one
whitewash-skirting draw at Melbourne – and have no further obligations in the
format until they arrive here in late February for four mouth-watering clashes.
their players will tackle the English in the one-day international series that
follows, although they are likely to be cautiously “rotated” with the SA safari
strongly in mind.
they look unrecognisable from the team which crashed (2-1) to a third
successive home series reverse specifically at the hands of the Proteas last
It is true
that the Aussies’ away record remains suspect – last two series prior to the
Ashes involved a 2-1 defeat in India and iffy 1-1 outcome in Bangladesh – but
they traditionally far prefer South African pitches, remember, to those of the
have not yet won a home, post-isolation series against Australia and their task
of correcting that quite shortly looks no less daunting than ever.
the Baggy Greens’ captain, is the man of the moment in world cricket, not just
for the way he steered the ship against England but through the glorious weight
of his own performance with the bat.
28-year-old right-hander amassed a positively gluttonous 687 Ashes series runs
at 137.40 over the course of seven innings, including three centuries and two
serious, well-established batsmen in the Test arena, he boasts the second best
– and growing -- overall average (63.75) to the incomparable Don Bradman.
already shown a suitable appetite for South African Test conditions, too,
considering that in his first experience of them in the last series here, in
2013/14, he compiled 269 runs at an average of 67.25 – well above that stellar
career one at present!
mastery against England was such that several compatriots’ commendable own
efforts almost, and unjustifiably, flew beneath the radar.
opener David Warner got 441 runs at 63.00, Shaun Marsh 445 at 74.16 to
re-announce his credentials for a regular spot, and Usman Khawaja blossomed in
the previously problematic, important No 3 spot.
left-hander bagged 333 runs at almost 48, including a career second-best 171 in
the just-completed Sydney win – that will be a major tonic for his aspirations
in South Africa.
wicketkeeper, Tim Paine, averaging 48 meant that as many as six Aussie batsmen
proved superior in that respect than England’s best: captain Joe Root with
also a blissful synergy to the Australian bowling performance: their
well-rooted four premier bowlers (pacemen Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and
Pat Cummins, plus off-spinner Nathan Lyon) all finished the Ashes within a very
tight range of each other stats-wise.
Cummins landed 23 wickets at 24.65, Starc 22 at 23.54, Hazlewood 21 at 25.90
and Lyon 21 at 29.23.
perspective, England’s standout individual was veteran James Anderson with 17
wickets at 27.82 – he sent down a brutal 222.3 overs in the series.
planet-wide cannot wait for the showdown between the Aussie pace trio and South
Africa’s possibly still four-pronged speed assault – especially assuming that
Dale Steyn recovers from his latest heel-injury setback to join the onslaught
in time, which he apparently should …
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