South Africa take on Australia in the first test of the return series in what promises to be a real humdinger.
Archie Henderson reports for www.thetimes.co.za
The first test takes place at the Wanderers (Bull Ring) and the last time the Proteas won in the Bullring, Hansie Cronje, who scored a century, was not yet captain or match-fixer-in-chief.
The disparity in experience alone puts them there. The difference in Test caps is stark: South Africa have 630 in the 11 who are likely to take the field at the Wanderers, while Australia have a mere 281, 128 of which belong to Captain Ponting. No wonder the Aussie press is calling its team the Baggy Greenhorns.
A bit of smugness creeping back in?
Then take a closer look at this Aussie team. Without being patronising, it is still a formidable outfit.
For a start, the batting is strong and even if Phil Hughes, at 20, is the greenest of the Baggy Greenhorns, he has solid support in Simon Katich (Test average 43.43), Ponting (56.87), Michael Clarke (49.40) and Michael Hussey (59.36).
The bowling is hardly weak, even though the attack musters 24 Test caps between them, and only six if you ignore Mitchell Johnson’s 18.
Last week, on the Potch track that seemed to have been laid by the National Roads Commission, they might have looked like your local town team, but the Wanderers is as different from Senwes Park as Taboo is from The Dros.
There’s been a lot of talk from the Aussies about South Africa’s relentless pace attack, but their own is not too shabby.
Ben Hilfenhaus and Doug Bollinger can swing it with the best and Peter Siddle, like Dennis Lillee, will bowl all day if you need him. We know all about Johnson.
As in the most recent Test series, this one will come down to the nitty-gritty of Test cricket: the catching and the “crunch” stages. In Australia, the Proteas won both.
South Africa team: Smith, McKenzie, Amla, Kallis, Duminy, de Villiers, Boucher, Harris, Morkel, Steyn, Ntini
Australia team: Katich, Hughes, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke, North, Haddin, McDonald, Johnson, Siddle, HilfenhausTweet