Braggy Greens to be tested

2014-01-11 00:00

HERE we go again. Michael Clarke has insisted that his bowling attack is the best in the world and he has said that the regenerated Mitchell Johnson is one of the all-time greats.

Peter Siddle and David Warner have also piped up and spoken about how Australia have the best bowling attack in the world with Warner even adding that South Africa are “on the back foot” due to the retirement of Jacques Kallis. Alastair Cook also added his voice to the chorus and said that this Australian bowling attack is the best he has ever faced.

Given that Cook and co. faced the South African trio of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel not all that long ago, it’s a statement that’s likely to get South Africans’ tails up. Who has the best bowling attack is a debate that often surfaces, but nothing quells a debate quite like a tussle on the field and the stage is set for one colossal battle.

In a few weeks, South Africa will take on Australia in a three-match Test series and, at least for the time being, who has the better bowlers will become quite evident. Anyone who looked at Ashes scorecards and didn’t actually watch much of the cricket might be drawn to the notion that, as an all-round unit, Australia are indeed better. After all, England only batted for over 100 overs thrice on the entire tour. The only problem is that England’s ineptitude flattered Australia’s aptitude. Sure, there were spells were Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle were close to unplayable, but for much of the Ashes England were bordering on useless and Australia cashed in.

For lovers of fast bowling, the looming contest between the Proteas and their arch-rivals Australia is lip-smacking. Philander and Steyn are ranked first and second in the world respectively while Harris is third with Siddle sixth and Johnson eight. When the left-arm Johnson toured South Africa in 2009, he was immense and in the same kind of form which he currently finds himself in. He took 16 wickets in three Tests at an average of 25,00 while Siddle took 12 at an average of 22,50. In the Ashes, Johnson managed 37 wickets at an eye-watering average of 13,97 and it was his relentless, bombastic and snarling aggression with a silly moustache to boot that almost made him the pantomime villain of the tour.

It’s the kind of thing that makes Test cricket so fascinatingly enticing, characters who become larger than life and back it up with solid performances make the spectacle of Tests exciting, even if the cricket is woeful from one side. England’s fragile batting line-up is a far cry from Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis and the Aussie pacemen will have a much different challenge on their hands when they visit South Africa’s shores.

With conditions almost certain to favour the fast bowlers, the tussle between the two bowling units will be the pinnacle of the South African summer. Australia’s batting line-up isn’t exactly overly flash. Brad Haddin and Steve Smith were the glue that held the Aussie innings together on a number of occasions. Save for his efforts in the first three Tests, David Warner returned to the familiar hit and miss slogger and failed to pass 30 in the last two games. Chris Rogers remains a rookie, with just 11 Tests to his name and has never been Tested in hostile conditions. Considering that was against a tired and demotivated England attack, their fortunes could turn against a refreshed and raring to go South African side.

After an early summer shrouded in bitterness thanks to India’s truncated tour as a result of boardroom handbags, the build-up to the series, which is still more than a month away, will surely fire up both the South African public as well as the bowlers and the rest of the team.

Clarke would say that his bowlers are the best in the world, it’s a captain’s job to motivate his side, but they have played against the same dodgy opposition for the last seven months. He might want to see which of them actually manage to stay fit for the trip to South Africa before making such outlandish statements. As esteemed cricket journalist Stuart Hess tweeted recently, for the time being, #PipeDownPup.

Antoinette Muller is a freelance writer who writes mainly about soccer and cricket for The Daily Maverick or anybody else who will have her …

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