Much of the pre-test hype focussed on whether Michael Clarke’s view, that Australia has the best bowling attack in world cricket, is true.
Despite all the hot air doing the rounds, there is little doubt that both batting line-ups have a healthy respect for the fast bowlers of the other side. This past weekend, Supersport showed replays of a lot of matches between the two sides. Ever since the departure of Shane Warne, the main wicket takers have always been the quicks.
David Warner started a new line of verbal attack when he singled out Robbie Peterson as the lamb they target to take to the slaughter. Likewise, the Proteas will consider Nathan Lyon as easier pickings than the fast bowlers.
The irony of the whole conversation is of course that neither of them may play at Centurion, where the pitch is likely to favour seam bowling. Cape Town and PE are the two more spinner friendly grounds, and likely to involve their inclusion.
Australia lose their “Kallis”
The withdrawal of Shane Watson is a considerable blow to the men from down under, though not as influential as the loss of King Kallis is to the Proteas. While his possible replacement, Shaun Marsh, is a top class batsman, they will definitely be weaker in the bowling department. My colleague Bobby reckons that it will also affect the balance in the side.
Speculation about the Protea squad to walk on in Centurion is that Dean Elgar may slot into the number seven batting slot. Given his steady progress in his last few tests, he could be a major boost for the side on a pitch which requires a long and strong batting line-up.
If we play four seamers in Centurion, the most likely candidates are Wayne Parnell and Rory Kleinveldt, with the former likely to get the nod as a left-arm variation. The challenge in selecting Parnell is that you never know which one will pitch up on the day. As Craig Matthews puts it on Supersport:
“The problem with Wayne is that he is either very good or very bad with little in between. He goes for two or three runs per over.
“You need a bowler who can stop the game and there is nobody in that attack that can play the holding role (if Parnell plays).”
Bobby differs on these views: he feels that you need to have a spinner in the side to hold up one end. He would also pick Ryan McLaren as the fourth seamer.
Then there is of course JP Duminy, who has proved that he is more than able to hold his own, including taking the odd vital wicket unexpectedly.
So, courtesy of Bobby, here is the Moonstone side for Centurion:
- Petersen A
- Du Plessis
- De Villiers
In my view, the single biggest factor in the first test will be how the teams were able to prepare. In this regard, the Proteas definitely have the edge, having had ten days of preparation including a proper match to hone their skills.
Thanks to the rain, the Aussies were left to play with themselves, in a manner of speaking, and this could prove to be the difference, come Wednesday.