Do the Proteas have fight in them?

2012-11-16 00:00

ONE thing the Brisbane Test showed us is that no matter how weak an Australian team may be, fighting is part of their DNA. It now has to be copied by the Proteas, as they head to one of their least favourite grounds: the Adelaide Oval.

Scrapping is something the Proteas are not accustomed to, especially when they have been the boss of the bargaining table. Michael Clarke and company were not content to play the abused employees, and they gave the Proteas some of the medicine that they dished out to England.

Gabba draws have often led to Australia not winning the series, except for 1998, when a thunderstorm prevented an Australian victory as Robert Croft and Dominic Cork did not hesitate when the light was offered. What the Australians did do, and do very well, was fight themselves out of a precarious position.

A lack of killer instinct, associated with South African sides of the past, manifested itself as a rather toothless outfit was caught between a rock and a very hard place. It did not make the best of viewing when Clarke weaved his magic Spartan all over the lush Gabba turf. It is a ground, besides his beloved Sydney Cricket Ground, where his wizardry in the stifling heat and humidity is at its most apparent.

His fight, unlike those of Steve Waugh, Mark Taylor and Ricky Ponting, was an aesthetic one with a streak of granite and plenty of grit. Rear guards are normally associated with subterranean-like grinds and strokeless wonders, where the opposition gets to the point where they feel like they are losing their mind.

There have been excellent and fiery back-to-the-wall innings authored by the game’s greats as they have refused to be drawn in by the tide of defeats.

With lesser talent than past Australian sides, to get past a side as talented as the Proteas, an armoury of gun-fighting guts is packed into the mind and hearts of a team that believes in itself.

Even at their lowest ebb, Australian sides always make a fight of it, and on home soil they seem to find a third force when the chips are down. Maybe this lesson in scrapping 101 is one the Proteas will do well to absorb, and will find a way of administering the last rites in a quick and painless manner.

It has also served them well for they have not been subjected to those numbing third-innings collapses that often settle Test matches. There was a lack of the energy and zip that has made them so refreshingly cool to watch, and the Australians took advantage of the monotony. It could be argued that the loss of the second day significantly altered the result and the game plans, but he who adjusts better is often the winner of the chess match. At least Test cricket affords the escape avenue of a draw when a team is punch drunk.

The Proteas have the right mix of pretty matadors, unglamorous firefighters and a peaceful warrior whose corded wrists were not strong enough to wrap the Australian head and removed it from the base of the neck. Rarely have the Proteas gone into a Test match without a recognised bulldog, but that is the reality of life without Mark Boucher. The issue of Thami Tsolekile, whose fighting qualities have rubbed off on a young Highveld Lions side that is prospering game by game, remains.

It will not come as a surprise if a fiesty Faf du Plessis makes his Test debut at a ground where third and fourth-innings spooks loom large.

The ghosts of 1994 and 2001 have not been exorcised, even though they have not had the opportunity do so.

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