The battle for the number one test spot is on. The Newsroom breaks down the Australian and South African sides ahead of the first test in Brisbane next week.
Batting Line Up
The Australian middle order will have a familiar feel. Former captain Ricky Ponting has hit his straps early in domestic cricket for Tasmania with a century and Shane Watson is in career-best form, voted player of the series in the Champions League T/20. Michael Hussey will provide stability, and along with Captain Michael Clark, the Australian middle order looks to be as solid as ever coming into summer.
There will be a battle at the top of the order with selectors still juggling a few names around. Ed Cowan and David Warner still look to hold their spots but with the recent good form of Phil Hughes, they will need to continue to produce runs to hold their places over summer.
The wicket keeper postion has been hotly contested, but with Mathew Wade having scored a century in his last innings for Australia, he has been selected ahead of Brad Haddin despite his recent domestic batting form.
The Aussie fast bowling line up is bursting with young talent, and hopefully they can remain injury free for the entire summer. Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc are one of Australia’s most exciting young trio of fast bowlers in recent years, but they will have to nurse their workloads over a long summer. Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus have taken 80 wickets between them over the past year, and look set to take on the experience of the South African batting line-up.
One question mark that hangs over the Australian attack is spin. Nathan Lyon has failed to impress of late, so expect to see a few new names, particularly Michael Beer and Jon Holland, being mentioned over the coming months.
The Aussies definitely appear to have the talent on paper, and have started to gel as a test side under the guidance of new captain Michael Clark having lost only two of their past 14 tests. However they will need to be in good form if they want to take the number one test ranking away from the visitors.
The South Africans
Bowling Line Up
South African bowling coach Allan “White Lightning” Donald has declared the current crop of Protea’s as the best fast-bowling attack the country has ever produced. The trio of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander have claimed 500 test wickets, compared to the entire Australian test side’s tally of 380. All three are ranked in the top ten according to International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings and pose the biggest threat in world cricket to Australia’s batting line-up.
Heavyweight batting line-up
Australia’s batting line-up will need to be at their best facing a South African juggernaut which has amassed over 8000 more runs than their rivals.
Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis are four of the most prized scalps in world cricket.
If experience counts in the heat of battle, South Africa holds a significant advantage with 144-test caps more than the Australians.
Home away from home
The last time the two sides met in Australia, South Africa inflicted Australia’s first defeat on home soil in 16 years. The current Protea’s side are well-adapted to playing away from home – they have not lost an away series since 2006 and defeated a strong English line-up in England last winter.
Captain Smith was confident facing the Australian media before next Friday’s first test, claiming South Africa would be “hard to beat” and were excited by the challenge of facing Australia at home.
“We all enjoy the challenge of winning in someone else’s backyard. It’s tough to do, but that’s what excites us.”
– Adam Kidd and Patrick Higgins