Who’s the fastest bowler of them all?

2014-02-09 14:00

Opposing captains Graeme Smith and Michael Clarke stand in the mirror every night and do the Snow White rendition of the cricketing kind:

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fastest of them all?

It’s a worthy question ahead of the first test at SuperSport Park in Centu­rion, which starts on Wednesday.

With the kind of pace Dale Steyn and Mitchell Johnson are able to generate, any self-respecting batsman knows the kind of bodily harm that comes with their leather-hurling.

While they may be the leaders, fast bowlers hunt in packs, and they will be the deciding factor in the series.

Bowlers win matches, and batsmen set them up. Clarke, especially, has talked up his battalion as the best in the world. There is leeway for such a remark after their recent demolition of a rather listless England. Even during their failed Ashes campaign in England in July and

August, they were the better attacking side, with just England’s Ian Bell the difference ­between the teams.

Australia outbowled England in both series, which does give credence to Clarke’s theory. But don’t forget Smith’s charges did the same thing in an albeit shortened test series the year before.

Clarke was quick to describe the ­series as one that will be tough for the batsmen, and with the wafer-thin look to his line-up, it has been wise of him not to talk up his batting unit.

Had it not been for Brad Haddin’s ­exploits, the series could have taken a scarlet rather than a canary-yellow hue. The whitewash was as comprehensive a defeat any team could inflict on another, but it was one based on brutally fast bowling against a team that did not have the inclination for a fight.

Batting effectiveness away from home has not been Australia’s strength, nor has it been South Africa’s at home – all Proteas batsmen barring Faf du Plessis have superior ­averages away from home.

That bodes well for both bowling ­attacks, who enjoy bowling in South ­Africa and bowling to each other.

After all, Australia have not coughed up a series against South Africa in this country since 1970. Since Shane Warne’s last series here in 2006, pace has been Australia’s preferred method of attack and it has worked. That same method has seen South Africa conquer Australia in consecutive series down under, and the Proteas’ protagonists have not changed over the years.

They are evenly matched, with each unit having the requisite firepower to cancel each other out. It will be the batsmen, not the bowlers, who will have to deal with the wrath.

When the trenches are dug, it is the earth that takes a pounding.


Bad Brad’s the man

In cricket, statistics are everything and Johnson’s 37 wickets ultimately won him the Man of the Match award.

Brad Haddin’s first innings contributions cannot be understated at any stage as Australia suffered from the 100/5 syndrome regularly.

Below is the importance of Haddin and how the Proteas need to winkle his wicket very quickly before they can even entertain any thoughts of

a win.

What made the runs more important was the speed at which they were scored, wresting

the initiative.

South Africa will know Haddin well from the 2008/09 test series, both home and away.

These are the runs that Haddin made when he walked to the wicket:

1st test: FOW: 100/5 – Haddin: 94 – Final total: 295

2nd test: FOW: 257/5 – Haddin: 118 – Final total: 570/9

3rd test: FOW: 143/5 – Haddin: 55 – Final total: 385

4th test: FOW: 112/5 – Haddin: 65 – Final total: 204

5th test: FOW: 97/5 – Haddin 75 – Final total: 326

In the previous Ashes series in England in

July and August 2013, where Haddin and the rest of the Australian line-up did not have the best of series, he still proved to be a game breaker, especially in the first test in Nottingham, where he nearly took Australia to an unlikely win. When he failed, Australia were crushed by the uncompromising hosts.

1st test: FOW: 161/5 – Haddin 71 – Final total: 296 – Australia lost by 14 runs

2nd test: Failed – lost by 347 runs

3rd test: FOW: 365/5 – Haddin 65* – 527/7 – Match drawn

4th test: Failed: Australia lost by 74 runs

5th test: Failed: Match drawn

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