In view of the lull in sporting activities, I did some spywork and found the following extracts in the Sydney Morning Herald in anticipation of Friday’s first match between the Proteas and Australia.
Mickey Arthur continues to keep the faith in under-pressure spinner Nathan Lyon, the loss of allrounder Shane Watson still leaving the Australia coach uninterested in plumping for a four-prong pace attack at the Gabba.
Watson’s value as a fourth seamer has allowed Australia to pick Lyon for all conditions since he made his Test debut 15 months ago.
But the star allrounder’s injury-enforced absence isn’t jeopardising the off-spinner’s position against world No.1-ranked South Africa.
Victorian left-hander Rob Quiney will become the country’s 429th Test player as a No.3 batting replacement for the injured Watson (calf) but otherwise the balance of the side is set to remain the same with three front-line quicks.
Arthur and captain Michael Clarke met with Gabba curator Kevin Mitchell jnr on Monday and the coach noted the good nature of the wicket increased the strong likelihood Lyon would play.
“In an ideal world you would love to have Shane Watson batting three and bowling for you, that’s a reality,” Arthur said.
“The fact is we won 4-0 against India last year without Shane – so we are comfortable we have the players and we have the cover.
The former South Africa coach even felt 30-year-old Quiney’s sudden promotion – becoming the third left-hander in the top-three behind David Warner and Ed Cowan – could give the hosts an advantage in combating the Proteas’ fast, swinging spearhead Dale Steyn.
“There’s no secret Dale hasn’t bowled well to left-handers,” Arthur said before correcting himself. “Let me rephrase that: he bowls a lot better to right handers than left handers.
“He’s a phenomenal bowler but (Quiney) gives us another left-hander in our top-order.”
South Africa say there’s no chance they’ll go into the Gabba Test with four specialist fast bowlers.
Leg-spinner Imran Tahir was expensive and ineffective during the Proteas’ drawn tour match with Australia A, finishing with the unflattering figures of 2-157 and going at close to four runs per over on an unforgiving SCG wicket.
“To be honest with you, the balance of the side with Kallis being there as the fourth seamer, whether you play four or five (fast bowlers) isn’t really going to be that important,” South Africa assistant coach Russell Domingo said.
“Gone are the days when a South African team goes without a spinner.”
The Proteas said there were pleased with Tahir’s preparation, despite his limited success against Australia’s second-string batting line-up.
“Imran got a long bowl which is exactly what we wanted,” said batsman Hashim Amla.
Well, there begins the verbal ping-pong of what promises to be an enthralling series. Despite all the old English colonies welcoming the opportunity of putting England under the cosh, Australia’s dominance over the past decade makes them the number one foe to defeat.