Proteas vs Johnson

2014-02-20 00:00

PORT ELIZABETH — Proteas opening pair Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen are key to any plan South Africa’s brain trust may come up with in an effort to halt the assault by Aussie speedster Mitchell Johnson.

Johnson took 12/127 in the first Test and SA’s batsmen were vulnerable against his attack.

South African coach Russell Domingo has little option this morning at the start of the second Test at St George’s Park. He and the selectors must choose between Wayne Parnell and Dean Elgar as a substitute for the injured Ryan McLaren. Or, they must include both Parnell and Elgar and leave spin bowler Robin Peterson out of the final eleven.

Whatever they decide won’t matter unless they can come up with a strategy to counter Johnson.

And that plan has to start with the opening pair.

It is one of the oldest truths in cricket that the opening pair has to protect the middle and lower down batsmen against the new ball.

That is the opening batsman’s initial and most important priority.

The new balls swings more through the air and moves further away from the pitch and opening batsmen learn from a young age how to cope with that. The middle order and lower down batsmen will have much more success against Johnson when they face him with an old ball in the hand.

It is safe to say South Africa’s anchor batsmen have not performed satisfactorily.

Petersen has played nine Tests since he last hit a century for the Proteas. That was during the New Year’s Test match against New Zealand in 2013 at Newlands.

Since that Test Smith and Petersen could only amass more than 50 on four occasions in an innings during the 15 they have played. And three of the four were at the end of last year against a light weight Indian attack.

Petersen has hit 335 runs at an average of 23,9 during that time while Smith scored 664 at an average of 47,42. If one ignores his only century — the 234 he scored against Pakistan in Dubai last year — he barely averaged of 33.

It is not only the Proteas who have to make a final decision about their team this morning. The Aussies are still uncertain whether they will field veteran all-rounder Shane Watson, who missed the first Test due to a calf muscle injury. .

Aussie captain Michael Clarke told the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday that the selectors have informed him that Watson will not be considered if he is not fit to bowl.

Alex Doolan, who took Watson’s position at Centurion, scored 27 and 89 in his debut Test and will be unhappy if he is now relegated to carrying drinks.

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