‘Heads must roll’: Aussie media baying for Ponting’s blood

2011-11-16 00:00

MICHAEL Clarke has been brutally honest about his teams’ ineptness in the first Test match against South Africa at Newlands, but even he must be reeling from the media hammering that has ensued.

After the completion of the Argus review and months of introspection into the reasons for the underperforming national team, Friday’s eight-wicket thumping by South Africa has Australian cricket writers baying for blood.

Peter Badel wrote in the Herald Sun that “heads must roll sooner than later” and that “no Australian team can slump to 21-9, be rolled for 47 and remain unchanged”.

The question of whose heads is partially answered in The Australian headline, which reads, “John Inverarity’s axe looms over Punter [Ponting]”. It appears that Inverarity’s first job as Australian convenor of selectors will be to decide the fate of one of Australia’s finest cricketers after the Wanderers Test match.

The Herald Sun holds no punches saying, prematurely in my opinion, that “the Test selectors must lie awake at night desperately praying for Ponting to jump gracefully before they reluctantly push him”. Ponting is not the only player who is under the spotlight.

Brad Haddin’s ill-chosen dance down the wicket to Vernon Philander in the second innings was not his finest moment, by his own admission. Already there is talk that he has done his time and should be handing the gloves to the 27-year-old Tasmanian, Tim Paine.

Left-arm bowler Mitchell Johnson is also fighting to save his Test place. Johnson, who has taken just 11 wickets in his last five Tests at an average of 51,64, was targeted by Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla in the Proteas second innings run-chase, going for over six runs an over.

While it’s tempting to gloat over the discontent in the Australian camp, it would be wrong to let it detract from South Africa’s brilliant performance and complete annihilation of Australia in just two days and one session.

Philander’s selection for the Test at Newlands was a triumph for South African coach Gary Kirsten.

Philander, who has been the leading wicket taker in franchise cricket for the last three years in a row, forced his way into the Protea Test line-up.

As horses for courses go, Philander’s lively seam bowling was perfectly suited to the Newlands pitch.

I’m sure “Pro”, as he is known, would love to have wrapped up the Newlands turf and taken it away with him. With the fast bowlers making short work of the Australian batsmen, debutant leg-spinner Imran Tahir was barely needed at Newlands.

The return to form of Smith and Amla was well-timed.

After a long layoff and a knee operation Smith quietened his critics.

His powerful batting display in the second innings reminded us why he is the best run chaser in Test cricket at the moment.

The Proteas have massive momentum going into the second and final Test at the Wanderers and will want to repeat the dominance they displayed at Newlands.

The Bullring is always an intimidating arena for touring teams, but for Ponting, Haddin, Johnson and their team-mates it may well feel like the Colosseum.

Neil Johnson is a former Zimbabwean, Western Province and Dolphins cricketer turned commentator who resided in the midlands.

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