Phew! What a week it was for cricket - It’s advantage SA as teams head for final

2011-11-12 20:33

In terms of captaincy and cricketing styles, Michael Clarke and Graeme Smith are world’s apart.

The former is a thinker, a novice in the job and one of the most stylish and aesthetically pleasing willow wielders around.

On the other hand, Biff, as peers and supporters call Smith, leads from the front, was South Africa’s youngest test captain and has a rough-hewn technique akin to a heavyweight slugger trying to hit a tennis ball with a stick.

What they had in common this dramatic week was that they were central to their teams’ performances in what has been one of the most bizarre test matches ever played.

Lords 2000 and Hamilton 2002 were examples of cobras nestling in the normally placid strips that have become commonplace during the noughties.

Clarke drove and cut Dale Steyn and company to distraction en route to a wonderful 151, equalling his maiden test 100 made against India in Bangalore in 2004.

In contrast, Smith muscled his way to an unbeaten 101, which gave the Proteas a 1-0 lead going into the second test of a short series.

Substance 1, Style 0.

Winning test series at home has not been South Africa’s forte recently, something Clarke should know very well.

Against England two seasons ago, they just could not throttle the already wounded prey while India and their firefighter supreme VVS Laxman ambushed the Proteas in Durban to square the series and batted out the final day on a placid Newlands track.

Australia have not been much better – they were on the receiving end of a 3-1 Ashes pummelling by England and relinquished their World Cup crown.

They did well to beat a limited Sri Lankan team away, but as the first test proved, their rebuilding under “Pup” has not passed the foundation stage.

While South Africa holds all the aces going into the Wanderers test on Thursday, it is Australia’s home away from home, having not lost at the ground since 1994 when Kepler Wessels’ team beat them by 197 runs.

South Africa’s record versus Australia at the ground is now starting to resemble Australia’s one against the West Indies at Perth in the 1980s and 90s, when they were routinely bounced out.

Australia’s once mighty aura has long vanished, but any competent test team will always fancy their chances at a ground where they have consistently done well.

Ground hoodoos have always been part of the game, but like rules, they have been broken time and time again.

Style will once again meet substance at the Bullring and South Africa’s killer instinct, which has been found wanting, will again be measured.

Are we going to witness a home series win over the Aussies for the first time in 41 years or will the wounded boxer that is Australia rise up from the canvas and sucker punch the showboating champion that is South Africa?

It will be hard to bet on a result but one cannot discount an Aussie backlash.

After all, never kick a dog when it’s down.

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