Proteas braced for a pace barrage

2008-12-01 00:00

Cape Town — South Africa expect Australia to field an all-pace attack against them for most of the three-Test series, starting in just over a fortnight.

The back-in-form Aussies clinically polished off New Zealand in the second Test at Adelaide yesterday for an innings victory and 2-0 sweep, with a resurgent Brett Lee claiming personal best match figures of nine for 171 to put paid to fears that the 32-year-old was a declining factor as spearhead.

And Mickey Arthur, the Proteas’ coach, was quoted in the Melbourne Age as saying: “With respect to [off-spinner] Nathan Hauritz, we’re assuming Australia will go into most, if not all, Tests with an all-seam attack, and [Andrew] Symonds and Michael Clarke bowling part-time spin.

“An attack with Shane Watson in it seems their best balance, and it also lengthens their batting.”

At roughly the same time as Arthur was singing Watson’s praises, the all-rounder, dropped for the Adelaide Oval Test against the Kiwis, returned his own first-class best single-innings career figures of seven for 69 for Queensland against South Australia.

Australian newspapers have pointed to an interesting “Symonds versus Watson” dilemma facing the selectors for the first Test at the Waca in Perth, from December 17 to 21, as incumbent all-rounder Symonds got a duck (albeit victim of a dubious Billy Doctrove decision) in Australia’s only innings of 535 against the Black Caps at Adelaide and bowled just 12 overs in the match.

Symonds also missed out on the batting front in the first Test, where he scored 26 and 20, although his explosiveness in this department is not in doubt.

Clearly, though, South Africa envisage both Watson and the temperamental Symonds being in the XI at the Waca, where conditions tend to favour fast bowling.

It would mean Watson returning at the expense of Hauritz, although that is not a “given” because Hauritz earned a decent enough match haul of four for 95 in the Adelaide Test.

Jason Krejza, another off-spinner who came strongly to light with 12 scalps in a losing Australian cause in the final Test of their Indian tour at Nagpur, is presently sidelined by strained ankle ligaments.

Also, despite Arthur’s observation about Watson lengthening the Aussie batting, the home camp may be feeling immeasurably more comfortable now about wicketkeeper Brad Haddin’s occupancy of the No. 7 spot, after his man-of-the-match innings of 169 against New Zealand.

The last time Australia played a Test at the Waca, in the home series against India back in January, they also went the all-seam route, with Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait and Stuart Clark the strike force.

Interestingly, they lost that third Test, after being 2-0 up from the first two, but eventually prevailed in the series 2-1 after a final-Test stalemate.

Arthur sees Lee, Johnson and Clark being joined by Watson to take on the Proteas in the first Test in Perth, with Symonds and Clarke then providing occasional slower variation.

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