South Africa in Australia 2012-13 November 19, 2012

Adaptable South Africa face Adelaide adjustment


One of the pillars on which South Africa's six-year unbeaten run away from home has been built is adaptability. On the sub-continent, they took on spin with all the footwork and flair needed; in England, they had the quicks to take advantage of seamer-friendly and swinging conditions; and the last time they were in Australia, they had the batsmen to negate the home attack.

This time, they would have said they have all that and more. The current squad has the potential to field a seven-man batting line-up with two in reserve, includes four frontline seam bowlers, each of whom offers something different, a legspinner and a left-arm slow bowler on the bench. The variety led bowling coach Allan Donald to claim it was the best South African attack he had ever seen but they looked a few shades off that in Brisbane.

On a pitch that delivered almost none of what it promised, the much-hyped fast bowlers were reduced to nothing but workhorses. Most of the team, including batsmen Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla and vice-captain AB de Villiers, admitted South Africa expected more from the surface which drove their decision to leave out Imran Tahir and opt for a pace battalion.

Quietly, Australia may have been chuckling that their opposition misread conditions, having not played a Test at the Gabba since before isolation. It was an error that proved even in an age where information is easily accessible thanks to technology, there is still great value in experience. Morne Morkel suggested as much ahead of the second match in Adelaide.

"There is a lot of talk about the ground and the wicket and that sort of thing," Morkel said. "For me, it's important to listen to those sorts of things and to try and learn from them but also to experience those things for myself. As soon as you get caught up in different stories, you could go down the wrong avenue."

No-one in South Africa's current touring party had ever played a Test at the Gabba before and the coach Gary Kirsten said they were scrambling to get "information from as many sources as possible" in the lead-up. The biggest hint they could have taken was England's Ashes score in 2010-11, when they piled on 1 for 517 in the second innings, but it seemed that South Africa chose to focus on the "juice," that Graeme Smith spoke about at the Gabba instead.

They will not want to appear similarly ill-informed in Adelaide, where they also have limited first-hand knowledge to draw on. At least Jacques Kallis and Kirsten have played Test cricket at the venue, when South Africa last appeared there in 2001, and Donald took five wickets there in 1994, but neither Morkel nor Steyn have played a Test there, while Vernon Philander and Imran Tahir have not been to Australia as international cricketers before.

Philander has already battled to some degree. He is wicket-less on this tour, something that a source close to the team has put down to batsmen starting to play him better by leaving him more rather than any glaring fault of his own. Tahir bowled extensively in the tour match and is expected to make a comeback into the starting XI, which will give the quicks some rest and provide another option.

While the team has not been announced, a frontline spinner is expected to play, and it is likely to be Tahir ahead of Robin Peterson. "It will be great to see Imran back, he is a quality guy, quality player and also attacking," Morkel said. "Imran has been bowling well in nets and working hard on his game."

On a track that is known to deteriorate and offer up inconsistent bounce as the match wears on, both Tahir and Morkel could come into play in the latter stages. With that only being hearsay for Morkel for now, he said he wouldn't change much about his approach ahead of the match and would concentrate on "creating more pressure" on the Australian line-up and stick to basics like "starting well in that first 20 balls".

One of South Africa's other goals is to ensure that no more wickets fall off no-balls. They overstepped 23 times in Brisbane and although Morkel was only responsible for two of those, both would have resulted in dismissals.

"It's about having discipline. We've been working on it," Morkel said with shake of the head after being reminded of his no-ball history, most recently at Lord's in August, when Matt Prior was given a reprieve after being caught off a Morkel no-ball. "It's a bitter pill to swallow especially because you know the quality of the batsmen and you don't want to give them another chance. When it happens to me, I try to get on with the job and think that if can get the batsman out once, I can do it twice."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 20, 2012, 15:40 GMT

    @disco_bob ---- point made, but if it was a straight choice between Thami Tsokilile (wicketkeeper / batsman) and AB de Villiers (batsman / wicketkeeper) that you would go for Thami? I couldn't do that. Its all a question of taking a calculated risk...

  • Blaen on November 20, 2012, 10:50 GMT

    The Saffa Gabba bowling performance highlighted the need for a holding/defensive bowler.Steyn is our premium strike bowler, Morkel is too erratic, Tahir is an attacking leggie trying to learn how to bowl defensively, Kleinveldt is a debutant trying to to impress and Philander is on a wicket taking taking frenzy that he doesn't want to end. All these bowlers are either erratic or have attack on their mind. If anyone is gonna block up an end, you feel it has to be Philander or Kallis as I believe that they have the best control. Kallis can't sustain drawn out bowling spells so it will have to be Philander. But that means Philander will have to change his mindset. He should go have a talk with Shaun Pollock because Alan Donald only understands attack and bowling the other guy's head off! We need to build pressure. The aussies can talk as much as they want but they have bigger expectations on their shoulders than the saffa's. We must exploit this and build pressure!

  • Dummy4 on November 20, 2012, 6:21 GMT

    @ Pappu_bhai: Useless pitches eh? Before you start re-writing history based upon last week´s test in Brisbane, here´s a stat for you: since 1988 when the WI were the last team to win at the Gabba, there have been 18 wins (72%) in the proceeding 25 tests, of which there were 6 wins by an innings (33% of those wins).

    When it comes to Adelaide, there´s been 24 test (none in 1988) and it gets better. Whilst there have been 6 draws, 3 of those were in 89, 90 & 91 - with 4 wins by an innings and visiting teams being victorious also on 4 occasions.

    So take your negativity elsewhere!

  • Kenso on November 20, 2012, 2:08 GMT

    I too would take a runscoring option at 7 rather than a specialised keeper. Prior, Dhoni and Devillers are NOT world class keepers but they do a good enough job and offer more with the bat. We will never see a master gloveman like Ian Healy again simply because its a liability to carry a batsman. The only time I can see a specialist gloveman included would be on a absolute dustbowl when there is a guy like warne or murali in the team then maybe you think ok this gloveman is probably worth an extra catch or stumping or saving 30runs in byes.

  • disco on November 20, 2012, 1:39 GMT

    @Newlandsfaithful " need a batsman / wicketkeeper rather than a wicketkeeper / batsman..." surely you jest? A single bad piece of wicketkeeping and you gift the opposition and extra batsman.

  • Dummy4 on November 19, 2012, 18:44 GMT

    I think the reason they are ignoring Quinton other than his age is his "lack of form" in the one day game. Unfortunately he is playing just like Levy, trying to hit almost every ball to the boundary. If he can learn to be patient he could become a great international batsman, never mind the keeping. Maybe they didn't notice the 194 he scored in his 2nd last FC game? He is a keeper in the Gilchrist mode and it will be a tragedy if he doesn't play international cricket soon.

    Has anyone else noticed Heino Kuhn's recent form? Add to that his FC average of 46 and 3.2 dismissals per game and you have a pretty good keeper / batsman.

    One player under 30 and another under 20 who are WAY better than Thami....

  • Dummy4 on November 19, 2012, 16:20 GMT

    Nick Armstrong, I am in agreement with George Matt - paint the full picture before ripping into Bouch. Besides the batting, his glovework is definitely missed, and while AB is filling the gap now, I'm doubtful that he has the quick hands for (leg side) stumpings or the game reading abilities that Bouch has.

    Make no mistake, it's tough keeping and being a top order batsman - which is why Gilly was a truly remarkable player - but I think we can all agree that AB's class will shine at some point, it's only a matter of time as he settles, this is only his 2nd Test series as gloveman.

  • sam on November 19, 2012, 13:47 GMT

    @Pappu_bhai- Aus is mighty scared of the SA pace battery ... the same bowlers who were clueless and ground to the dirt just last week.. If I am right Aus had taken the SA bowlers for 500 odd runs with out a wicket ...not counting the run out... I am sure the SA bowlers wished for it green and bounce off quick and awkwardly all of a sudden .. might have had a wicket or 2 for 500 runs for their effort. The SA batsmen didn't really enjoy the Aus pacemen steaming in on a last day pitch either..I don't to tell what happens when Ponting gets in and gets going....and he is due!! . SA have a few more issues than the pitch to ponder I'm sure....

  • Rayner on November 19, 2012, 13:29 GMT

    @ facebook on (November 19 2012, 10:42 AM GMT) well the Aussies are in real trouble then. Thir no. 3 can't even average anywhere near 40 in 1st class, their wicket keeper only just does, maybe Wade should be moved down the order to 3 and Quiney should be coming in at 7?

  • greig on November 19, 2012, 12:17 GMT

    Oh and regarding Boucher. Yes he was a fighter and a team man, but the stats dont lie, in his last 3-4 years of Test cricket his batting was poor when comparing to other top test teams keepers. I think in the modern game the keeper needs to have an average of +35 at least these days.

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