Australia v South Africa, 1st Test, Brisbane, 1st day November 9, 2012

Bowlers forget the McDermott mantra

Australia's bowlers were guilty of bowling short on a slower Gabba pitch and their new bowling coach's key task would be to remind them the methods that brought them success last year

There was good news and bad news for Ali de Winter after the first day of Test cricket since he took over from Craig McDermott as Australia's bowling coach. The bad news was that Australia had completed their worst first-day bowling performance ever in a Gabba Test, by letting South Africa reach stumps at 2 for 255. The good news was that de Winter now knows he's not superfluous. His key task is to make sure the McDermott methods are not forgotten.

It is not that Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Nathan Lyon were terrible, far from it. They were just a little bit off. And against patient men like Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis, a little bit off is all it takes. The attack veered from the consistency that made them so dangerous last summer against India. They still created chances - Siddle was deprived of two wickets by a no-ball and his own butterfingers - but those opportunities were notable because they were so rare.

The pitch didn't help, offering less of the zip and seam movement than first-day Gabba surfaces often provide. There was some cloud cover that provided swing when they pitched full, but too often they dropped short, denying the ball the chance to curve in the air. It wasn't as bad as Australia's bowling in the 2010-11 Ashes, but there was a similar lack of patience. Whether it was first-day nerves or rust, it needs to be rectified quickly.

Most notable was the regression of Hilfenhaus to old habits. During the Ashes he was so predictable that England's batsmen could watch the ball swing out of his hand and play it or leave it knowing there would be no surprises. He re-emerged last summer with an action reworked by de Winter and made India's batsmen play, swinging the ball late and using the crease for variation. There wasn't much of that today.

It is no coincidence that Hilfenhaus has spent most of the past six months bowling with white balls in short formats, where banging the ball in short of a length is common. He didn't get the habit out of his system in Tasmania's Sheffield Shield game last week, when he was outbowled by James Faulkner and Luke Butterworth on the kind of pitch fast men dream about.

Again he erred on the short side early at the Gabba. By the time he started to correct himself, the ball had lost much of its shine. There was one searing yorker that dipped in late and nearly had Alviro Petersen lbw, but it was the only time Hilfenhaus looked dangerous. There is no question that he was underdone coming in to this series. De Winter's task now is to steer him back to the good habits they discussed last year.

Not that Hilfenhaus was alone. Siddle and Pattinson both dropped short at times, and on a slow pitch with little seam movement, that was a mistake. When Pattinson pitched the ball full and allowed it to swing a little - the mantra instilled by McDermott during his year as bowling coach - he had Graeme Smith lbw. But the fact that Australia's fast bowlers didn't create a single genuine chance off the batsman's edge on a first-day Gabba pitch was as telling as the fact that Michael Hussey and Rob Quiney were bowling in tandem as stumps approached.

The only time the slips came in to play was when Lyon was bowling. His economy wasn't quite as bad that of Greece or Spain, but it was a slight worry for Michael Clarke. At least Lyon found turn and bounce and created some half-chances, including an edge off Amla that fizzed past slip, and one wicket when his flight and dip tricked Alviro Petersen into lobbing a catch to mid-on. The omitted Imran Tahir might have been watching with envy, given South Africa should be bowling last.

Of course, it's difficult to make a complete judgment until both teams have bowled. Morne Morkel's bounce might be less of a threat on this slow pitch, but it's hard to imagine Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander failing to find a solution to the surface. Get it up there, attack the stumps and give the ball a chance to swing.

It's the message de Winter should drum into his men overnight, especially with the second new ball available on Saturday morning. After a surfeit of one-day and Twenty20 cricket since he took over from McDermott, de Winter's real job has now begun.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Umair on November 10, 2012, 18:41 GMT

    Siddle is one of the most overrated bowlers on the circuit, all because of one good day he experienced in Test cricket.

  • David on November 10, 2012, 9:59 GMT

    @ Meety. You wrote "the 1969 Saffa team would of slaughtered Sri Lanka & India on home soil & there is ample evidence that they would of smashed Oz in Saffaland too." FAIL... BIG FAIL! In 66/67 SA beat Oz 3-1, & in 69/70 Oz were whitewashed 4-0 in SA. WHITEWASHED! That's not "ample" evidence, it's irrefutable!

    Oz could not take a series from SA in the 60s. As Bill Lawry said, "I played in three series against South Africa, in '64, '67 and '70, and we never beat them once."

    You also wrote "SA got rolled on home soil by Sri Lanka & India!" FAIL - wrong again! Sri Lanka has won 1 match in SA, & lost every series there. India has never won a series in SA, managing 1 draw in 5 series.

    When you wrote "SA got bundled up for 96 by Oz," you forgot that in that match Oz was bundled up for 47, their lowest score since 1902, and lost by 8 wickets! Ooops - now there's a FAIL!

    You really don't know much about cricket, do you Meety?

  • Terry on November 10, 2012, 5:42 GMT

    My personal view is if bowlers need a coach to tell them to pitch the ball up & try & hit the top of off stump on the first morning of a Brisbane Test (or any Test) then they are in the wrong game. It's all about being consistent & building pressure. Australia at the moment seem in their bowling to lack the ability to turn things around on the day. If they start badly they can't adapt. Of course this is not as bad as it was with Johnson but Siddle & Hilfenhaus have that seeming lack of flexibility. In the batting Australia always seem to have a fragility that means a collapse is around the corner. People forget that even the great Aust teams suffered bad periods and could be 100/5 but had a Gilchrist or a tailender to rescue them. Against a solid team like SA this could be fatal.

  • Dummy4 on November 10, 2012, 3:14 GMT

    nothing wrong with the pitch, its because the bowlers bowled long hops, short and wide and no patients, its test cricket, we need to build pressure to get good quality batsman out, Pattinson and Lyons bowled well but Hilfy back to his old style of bowling and Siddle bowling just above medium pace, i think Mc Dermott need to pay them a visit and assist them while they are in Australian shores, and im glad Glenn McGrath is commentating but would prefer him to be assistant bowling coach. De Winters failed in England ODI and so far i can see the quality of the bowling dropping rapidly. soon as we get rid of Winters and put a quality ex test bowler as a coach the better.

  • disco on November 10, 2012, 0:26 GMT

    Kevin Mitchell in an interview before the game said that this would be faster and bouncier than usual, when in fact the opposite was true.

  • John on November 10, 2012, 0:24 GMT

    In their recent series against England, SA dominated the first game, although even then Amala scored over 200 of his runs after being dropped. England could well have won the second and third games if they'd held their catches. Australia have started off making mistakes in the field too. I don't think that there's a great deal between any of the top teams and I have said that as far back as before England became #1. I don't see SA as being a dominant team the way Australia used to be but they are far too good to be let off the hook the way England did. If Australia don't tighten up then the result will likely be the same. This series was going to be a close run thing if everyone played to their potential. No-balls and dropped catches are just giving the game away.

  • disco on November 10, 2012, 0:15 GMT

    Has it occurred to anyone that it would be better to move the no ball line back the width of the line so that any part of the foot on the line is good rather than needing the full width of the line to be covered. It makes no difference other than giving a better target to aim at.

    Also it is nonsense that the mere presence of clouds produces instant swing conditions, the concomitance of the two has been proven to be a myth.

  • Marcio on November 9, 2012, 22:24 GMT

    @randomcricketer, either you didn't watch the game, or you don't know the Gabba strip. That was by far the flattest and slowest (by Gabba standards) strip I have ever seen at the ground. Batsmen were raising their bats and leaving balls 3 inches outside off. Yes, SA batted well, but you'd have to be seriously blind not to see the nature of the wicket. There was a little bit there in the first session, but far less than usual, and the slowness of the pitch was obvious from the first couple of overs. Pointing this out has nothing to do with excuses - it's simply fact. Apparently there will be more life in it on days 3 and 4, according to some experts. I certainly hope so. I would expect Australia to get plenty of runs here as well, esp. given that SA have no spinner. At any rate, we can finally dispense with all the silly talk of the SA/AUS A game being a conspiracy - a the flat wicket deliberately prepared before exposing SA to a green top at Brisbane.

  • Scott on November 9, 2012, 21:48 GMT

    The first thing Australian management should do is fine the bowlers $100 for each no ball. Do the bowls really think it will make any difference i they bowl from 15cm behind the crease? It really isn't that hard.

  • Prinesh on November 9, 2012, 21:26 GMT

    Posted by S.Jagernath on (November 09 2012, 19:53 PM GMT)

    Really, you guys are seriously going with that train of thought? The train of thought that suggests that curators wait specifically for the sub-continental teams to arrive, and in expectation of this, they prepare greener pitches especially for them?

    Firstly, without even digging the archives - These two teams played a test in CT last year (almost to the day) where we witnessed all 4 innings in one day. Aus were bowled out for 47, and we were bowled out for 90 odd i think. Methinks the track was not as flat as you would suggest.

    Secondly, a pitch is as green as the batsmen make it look. The bowlers had a new-nut and somewhat overcast conditions to work with. To their favour, we could have been 4 down by now.

    Thirdly, weather and time of year have a huge role to play. I dont know Aussie pitches, but i know that they (like all nations) are at the whim of the weather.

    Lastly, play the game, not the pitch and stop complaining.

  • No featured comments at the moment.