Are SA as bad as the Aussies?

2013-07-27 00:00

I DO not know which was the poorer performance last weekend, that of the Australian Test team or that of our own boys in Sri Lanka.

On balance I would have to give the nod to the South Africans on the basis that they were never in the match from the horrendous first overs delivered by Morkel and Morris. At least the Aussies won the first session of a match that they then would have lost in three days if the England captain had chosen to enforce the follow on.

The Proteas looked so far below the ability of the Sri Lankans in that first match that it is almost impossible to see them recovering the self belief necessary if they are to win any games on this trip. The only consolation is that without Amla and friends, the Proteas were well below full strength. The worry is that the rest of them do not look capable of extending their hosts.

Under South African conditions our attack is usually able to get the job done, but elsewhere it looks limited in both skills and ideas. Given that half all matches are played abroad, this is a situation that calls for some serious thinking both in and outside of the team if we are ever to have any realistic ambitions of winning an ICC trophy.

Our spin bowling is as bad, if not worse, than that of the Australians. Modern finger spinners need to be deadly accurate and have sufficient variations to cause some concern to the batsmen. All three spinners at AB’s disposal are deficient in both skills. The consequence is that opposing batsmen are never put under pressure. They know that opportunities come along frequently enough to keep the scoreboard moving.

Of the three spinners who played in the first match, Peterson is technically poor, Duminy is just a part-timer and Phangiso, who probably has the most promise, is very inexperienced at this level. This would not be a great hand for De Villiers to play even if he himself was an experienced and crafty captain, which he is not.

Sadly the situation is not much better in respect of the faster men. Morris and McLaren are also technically poor, with both of them splaying their left arms during their delivery strides. This robs them of the power and accuracy that a good shoulder movement provides. This means that neither of them can bowl with the consistency that is an imperative for international class fast bowlers.

The batting in the first match was woeful from the first ball to last. For some reason, Ingram felt it wise to stand almost outside leg stump when facing Malinga. This presented a clear target to a man renowned for bowling deadly accurate yorkers at will. With his high back lift, Ingram was never in a position to defend his stumps, which were shattered first ball.

Duminy then came in to illustrate, yet again, that any team relying on him is backing the wrong man. He is kind of okay when surrounded by class batsmen but has yet to prove he can be a main player.

De Villiers played another innings of little value, which has been the rule rather than the exception since he has taken over the wicket-keeping duties. Some batsmen thrive under the pressure of captaincy but AB is not one of them. Sooner rather than later, someone is going to have to tell him that it is not worth compromising his abilities as a batsman.

Miller and Petersen both gave their wickets away to poor shots and all too soon the all rounders were faced with the impossible task, for them, of making over 250 runs in 30 overs.

Add all this to some sloppy fielding, careless captaincy and a host of extras, and you have a thoroughly dispiriting performance to kick off Russell Domingo’s career as national coach.

On the bright side, he is short of some key players. However, the lack of depth in our cricket should be sounding some warning bells if it is not to suffer the fate of the Australians whose state cricket, like our own, is too full of players who will never be good enough to make an impression at the higher levels of the game.

The poor Aussies, as I forecast before the series started, are a team with neither talent nor hope. The first Test will prove to be the summit of their performances in these Ashes. From now on it will be a nightmare slog uphill against a team bent on exacting revenge for years of humiliation. There surely has not been a poorer Australian team within living memory.

It brings to mind Martin Johnson’s famous quote before the 1986/87 Ashes when he said that the England team “can’t bat, can’t bowl, can’t feld”. Ironically, that England team went on to win the first Test and the Ashes, whereupon Johnson remarked “right line, wrong team”, but there will be no such revision in respect of these pitiful Aussies.

The real concern for Australia and cricket in general is not the fate of this Ashes series, for that is not in doubt, but how long will their cricket drought endure. It is not as if the Aussies have a team full of youngsters who will grow and develop with more experience.

Some of their bowlers have potential but you cannot win Test matches without batsmen capable of making big scores. Only Clarke is good enough to do that, but I wonder if a creaky back and a series like this one will not be too much for him.

Their best bet is to send a few scouts round South Africa to pick up some of the young cricketers who have felt the whip of discrimination both on the playing fields and at the entrance doors to their universities of choice. It is time for the Aussies to ape a habit of the Poms and nick a few Japies.

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