By Bharath Ramaraj
After browbeating England 5-0 in the Ashes 2013-14 series, Australia go into their Test series against South Africa, full of confidence. Most of the members in the squad are performing well and the tracks in South Africa that offer pace and bounce are similar to the ones we get to see in Australia. Yet, South Africa being the No 1 ranked side in Test cricket, it won’t be easy for Australia to upset the apple-cart and defeat South Arica in their own den.
If we look back at the history of South Africa vs Australia Test matches played since apartheid era in the Rainbow Nation, Australia have tended to hold the upper-hand over their opponents. Even when South Africa was expected to win the Test series against Australia both in 2008-09 and 2011, they couldn’t beat a rejuvenated Australian setup. This time around though, despite Australia’s recent Test series victory over England, South Africa will feel that they have the side to beat Australia.
South Africa have all the aces in their pack. But they will miss Jacques Kallis. It wasn’t just about his glorious batsmanship that helped South Africa to win Tests. But he also brought the much needed balance to the unit by bowling 12-15 overs a day. It is so reassuring to have an all-rounder who can bowl 12-15 overs a day and look like a wicket-taking threat. In turn, it helps frontline bowlers to take rest.
Other than the fact that Kallis has retired, in Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and company, they have a formidable batting line-up. Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel make up a fearsome pace attack too.
Australian pacers had extraordinary success against English batsmen in the Ashes. But they were up against an underperforming batting unit, struggling for runs. South African batsmen come on the back off a rich vein of form against India in South Africa and Pakistan in UAE, respectively. So, it won’t be easy for them to make early inroads into the South African batting line-up.
Nathan Lyon too proved to be a handful against England. The writer for one, doesn’t feel that South African batsmen will take as many chances as England’s willowy wielders did against Lyon. The likes of Amla, Smith, du Plessies and even de Villiers have that Test match temperament to milk spinners and chart their path to success.
It is very difficult to predict what type of tracks will be laid out for the upcoming Test series. But a glance at both teams tells us that South Africa have more depth in their reservoir to come out on top on any track.
It certainly should turn out to be a mouth watering contest between two teams who are in good form. But it would take a brave man to bet against South Africa washing away the challenge to be posed by Australia and coming out on top.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
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