Batting power the key

2014-02-12 00:00

CENTURION — It’s the team with the strongest batting arsenal that will play the decisive role, says the last South African cricket captain whose team succeeded in winning a home series against Australia.

Dr Ali Bacher, who captained the South African team that humiliated Bill Lawry’s Aussies in a 4-0 white-wash 44 years ago, says the best batting side will win this year’s series.

“Both teams have excellent bowling attacks, which will test the batsmen to the utmost,” he said.

“The batting line-up that stand their ground the best against this bowling attack, will, however, come up tops.

“I believe the South African batsmen are mentally stronger to withstand the assault and that they will come out on top.”

The South African captain, Graeme Smith, said his batsmen have moved somewhat below the radar during the past 18 months because the bowlers have attracted so much attention.

South Africa have in AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla respectively the number one and number four batsmen on the world rankings, as well at the world’s two foremost bowlers in Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.

“We accept that this will be a very intense series and that we will at times be under tremendous pressure. As the number one Test country in the world we have, however, learnt how to deal with it.

“I am very excited about the fact that the Aussies are here on our hunting grounds,” Smith said yesterday.

“We are more than ready for the battle and we know what we need to do to win at home.

“When you are number one in the world, you are regarded as the favourites and we are comfortable with that.”

Aussie captain Michael Clarke seemed visibly irritated during his media conference, but was also of the opinion that the batsmen will be tested.

“Initially it will be difficult to dig yourself in because I believe the pitch will offer a lot of help to bowlers earlier during the Test.

“The longer you spend time in front of the wickets, the easier it should get. I believe eventually it will become a very good Test pitch,” he said.

Clarke has not made any secret about the fact that he believes his bowling attack is better than that of South Africa. The question, however, is whether he feels the same about his batsmen?

“Time will tell. The South African bowling attack is probably the best one I have ever faced and I have a lot of respect for them,” he said.

It is expected that rookie Alex Doolan will be thrown into the deep side as the Aussies’ number three, with Shaun Marsh to come in as number six. There will, however, still be a long debate over Phillip Hughes’s claim for a place in the side.

South Africa will have to choose between Ryan McLaren and Wayne Parnell. It is also possible that they may strengthen the batting list with Dean Elgar.

Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle are not to be taken lightly as a bowling attack, but South Africa have the batting strength to withstand them.

Even though Amla had not been at his best against India, he is too much of a good batsman to remain too long in a groove.

With AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis playing on their home ground, JP Duminy, whose wrist injury is something of the past, and an opening partnership consisting of Smith and Alviro Petersen, who excel in home ground conditions, SA’s batting line-up seems more confident than that of the Aussies, who will be missing Shane Watson at number three.

Squads

South Africa: Graeme Smith (c), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Ryan McLaren, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Robin Peterson, Morné Morkel, Dean Elgar, Wayne Parnell, Rory Kleinveldt, Thami Tsolekile.

Australia: Michael Clarke (c), David Warner, Chris Rogers, Alex Doolan, Phillip Hughes, Steve Smith, Brad Haddin, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon, Moises Henriques, James Pattinson, Jackson Bird.

Umpires: Richard Illingworth (Eng), Aleem Dar (Pak).

TV-umpire: Ian Gould (Eng).

Starting time: 10.30 am

TV: From 9.45 am on SS2, SH2 and 10 am on SABC 3.

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