South Africa in Australia 2012-13 October 31, 2012

South Africa's batting depth 'daunting'

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Four years ago, JP Duminy stepped into Test cricket as if he was a veteran. On debut in Perth, his composed 50 not out helped South Africa complete the second-highest chase in Test history. In the second Test in Melbourne, he calmly compiled 166. It seemed he was destined to move up the order from No.6. Now South Africa are back in Australia for the first time since that trip and their batting is so deep that Duminy could be coming in all the way down at No.7.

It's a daunting prospect for Australia's bowlers. At the top is Graeme Smith, who was an inspirational leader last time South Africa visited Australia, and his opening partner Alviro Petersen, who has made himself a fixture in the side with three hundreds in seven Tests this year. Then there's Hashim Amla, who last year in South Africa the Australians found about as immovable as Table Mountain.

Then there's the small matter of Jacques Kallis at No.4. It is true that over his 18-year career Kallis has not saved his best for Australia, but anyone with 12,641 runs at 56.94 is not to be trifled with. Only once the first three wickets have fallen will the Australians see AB de Villiers, who until earlier this year was the highest-ranked Test batsman in the world. And after all that, Australia's bowlers must still deal with Jacques Rudolph and Duminy.

What makes South Africa's batting line-up even deeper than in recent series is the fact that Mark Boucher's forced retirement through a serious eye injury has allowed de Villiers to take over the wicketkeeping duties. Although he has been battling a back injury, de Villiers is likely to retain the gloves against Australia, ahead of the backup wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile.

But for all the runs South Africa's batsmen have piled up in Test cricket, the Australians know they are not infallible. James Pattinson, who is likely to be part of the attack for the first Test at the Gabba, watched with interest at the Wanderers last year when the teenager Pat Cummins delivered a sustained, hostile spell to the veteran Kallis, full of accurate bouncers, few runs, and culminating in an edge to slip.

"Any batsman is vulnerable if you bowl well," Pattinson said. "The Gabba and the WACA is going to give some good assistance for that bouncer and it's all about getting your plans against the right batsmen. We've definitely touched on that in the last couple of weeks… about how to set different batsmen up.

"Amla has been in great form, Graeme Smith has been in great form and you look at them and they're probably their key at the top of the order, as well as Kallis. It's a pretty long batting line-up and a pretty daunting task as a bowler but something that I'm looking forward to. These challenges don't come around very often. Hopefully we can knock them over and get the wood on them.

"They build their innings around Smith. He's been a fantastic player for a number of years and their captain as well. I think if you can get on top of the captain early on, especially early on in this series, it brings the other players down. If we can try and get on top of that opening partnership, get early wickets, that's the key for us, to get a look at Amla and Kallis pretty early with the new rock."

The ability of Australia's bowlers to make inroads into South Africa's batting line-up will be all the more important if Australia's batsmen wobble. The Gabba and the WACA will suit Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, arguably the best pace-bowling trio in world cricket. Pattinson, 22, was awestruck when he first saw Steyn bowl live, curling the ball whichever way he wanted, at express speed. It's a skill Pattinson has when at his best but he knows that for now, Steyn remains a cut above.

"I remember the first time I went to South Africa and I watched Dale Steyn bowl and it was unbelievable watching him bowl live," Pattinson said. "He's a fantastic athlete and it's fantastic the way he goes about it, his aggression and he swings the ball at good pace. He's someone that I would like to bowl like one day and have his record.

"It's going to be pretty hard to do because he's such a good bowler. Our batsmen are going to have to be on their best games to try and combat him and Morkel and Philander, who's almost the missing man in this, nobody is talking about him but his record over the last year has been fantastic. There'll be a bit more pressure on the bowlers to bowl well and look after our batsmen as well."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY Greatest_Game on | November 1, 2012, 21:30 GMT

    @ jonesy2. If Amla is the only "batting threat" you see, you clearly are long overdue to have your eyes (or your head) examined. You certainly don't see what the rest of the world does. SA has 4 of the top 7 ranked test batsmen. Aus has 4 of the top...errr... 33! Clarke at 6, Hussey at 17, Punter at 20, Watson at 33! Hussey's poor form against SA is the subject of a current Cricinfo feature article. Punter is still class, but his form questionable & Watto can't convert starts.

    What great demons will the SA batsmen be facing? Siddle, Hilfenhaus, Pattinson, Starc & Lyon have a combined 287 test wickets, exactly the same number as Dale Steyn, & only 7 more than Kallis! (SA's 4 pacemen have 780 wickets between them!) Starc & Hilf are nowhere near match fit - another current Cricinfo feature. Siddle & Watson break down if worked hard. In comparison, Huss recently called SA's "the best attack I've faced."

    Better get those eyes examined. You may be in for a big surprise!

  • POSTED BY edgie on | November 1, 2012, 7:42 GMT

    @jonesy, Aussie batting is not that fantastic eather, with two pensioners in their lineup. I would not be going around classing other lineups as weak when the aussies are not that wonderful either... Aus bowling looks decent, but don't have the experience as the proteas line up has.

  • POSTED BY jonesy2 on | November 1, 2012, 2:46 GMT

    the only batsman i see as a threat is amla, they get amla then its all good, de villiers isnt a threat if he keeps and duminy and rudolph? please

  • POSTED BY AidanFX on | November 1, 2012, 2:32 GMT

    I understand the appeal to making AB a keeper (to strengthen batting line up but the problem is it weakens their fielding team significantly. I also wonder the impact it will have on his batting. Time will tell.

  • POSTED BY Meety on | October 31, 2012, 23:22 GMT

    @HatsforBats on (October 31 2012, 09:30 AM GMT) - YES - one week to go - bring it on! @bluefunk on (October 31 2012, 16:30 PM GMT) - we just need MJ to give Patto a few tips on how to scuttle Smith, he's very knowledgable on that!

  • POSTED BY Meety on | October 31, 2012, 23:19 GMT

    @bestbuddy on (October 31 2012, 09:21 AM GMT) - mate, sorry but you don't get it. IMO - @Ballonbat is 100% correct - it is NEGATIVE to play AB as a Keeper. There has always been an inherant desperation in the Saffa system to have deep batting line ups - which often weaken the bowling attacks. On paper (using averages) - it would appear to strengthen the batting by playing AB as a Keeper. The reality is - it weakens the batting. AB averages around 20 to 25 when Keeping - which is about the same as Tsollys FC average. Dropping either Duminy or Rudolph who ave around or below 40 for Tsolly means you get a specialist keeper who'll score ABOUT the same runs as a W/Keeping AB would - & it then effectively means that AB's 50ish ave replaces a 40ish batsmen. AB did fluff several chances against England - fortunately they did not cost the Saffas in England! Imagine if AB MAc misses a stumping off Tahir with Clarke on 0, then Pup goes on to make 150? Weakens both batting & bowling!

  • POSTED BY ygkd on | October 31, 2012, 21:08 GMT

    Perhaps SA should take a punt on Tsolekile. De Villiers would probably make more with the bat unburdened with the gloves and Tsolekile would probably snaffle an important extra wicket or two. Yes, if I was in Kirsten's shoes I'd want to maximise the wicket-taking potential, especially given Australia's somewhat fragile batting, at least for the first Test - there's no point batting out a draw. It'd be tough on Rudolph though. He's deserved a second crack at it after being out for so long.

  • POSTED BY Cpt.Meanster on | October 31, 2012, 18:22 GMT

    I think this will be a close series. Neither the Saffers nor the Aussies have any upper hand. A 1-1 draw is the likely scenario.

  • POSTED BY bluefunk on | October 31, 2012, 16:30 GMT

    If Pattinson expects to get on top of Smith psychologically like he did with Sehwag last season, he has a major reality check coming.

  • POSTED BY on | October 31, 2012, 12:29 GMT

    If only Amla and AB fires Aus will bite the dust.

  • POSTED BY Greatest_Game on | November 1, 2012, 21:30 GMT

    @ jonesy2. If Amla is the only "batting threat" you see, you clearly are long overdue to have your eyes (or your head) examined. You certainly don't see what the rest of the world does. SA has 4 of the top 7 ranked test batsmen. Aus has 4 of the top...errr... 33! Clarke at 6, Hussey at 17, Punter at 20, Watson at 33! Hussey's poor form against SA is the subject of a current Cricinfo feature article. Punter is still class, but his form questionable & Watto can't convert starts.

    What great demons will the SA batsmen be facing? Siddle, Hilfenhaus, Pattinson, Starc & Lyon have a combined 287 test wickets, exactly the same number as Dale Steyn, & only 7 more than Kallis! (SA's 4 pacemen have 780 wickets between them!) Starc & Hilf are nowhere near match fit - another current Cricinfo feature. Siddle & Watson break down if worked hard. In comparison, Huss recently called SA's "the best attack I've faced."

    Better get those eyes examined. You may be in for a big surprise!

  • POSTED BY edgie on | November 1, 2012, 7:42 GMT

    @jonesy, Aussie batting is not that fantastic eather, with two pensioners in their lineup. I would not be going around classing other lineups as weak when the aussies are not that wonderful either... Aus bowling looks decent, but don't have the experience as the proteas line up has.

  • POSTED BY jonesy2 on | November 1, 2012, 2:46 GMT

    the only batsman i see as a threat is amla, they get amla then its all good, de villiers isnt a threat if he keeps and duminy and rudolph? please

  • POSTED BY AidanFX on | November 1, 2012, 2:32 GMT

    I understand the appeal to making AB a keeper (to strengthen batting line up but the problem is it weakens their fielding team significantly. I also wonder the impact it will have on his batting. Time will tell.

  • POSTED BY Meety on | October 31, 2012, 23:22 GMT

    @HatsforBats on (October 31 2012, 09:30 AM GMT) - YES - one week to go - bring it on! @bluefunk on (October 31 2012, 16:30 PM GMT) - we just need MJ to give Patto a few tips on how to scuttle Smith, he's very knowledgable on that!

  • POSTED BY Meety on | October 31, 2012, 23:19 GMT

    @bestbuddy on (October 31 2012, 09:21 AM GMT) - mate, sorry but you don't get it. IMO - @Ballonbat is 100% correct - it is NEGATIVE to play AB as a Keeper. There has always been an inherant desperation in the Saffa system to have deep batting line ups - which often weaken the bowling attacks. On paper (using averages) - it would appear to strengthen the batting by playing AB as a Keeper. The reality is - it weakens the batting. AB averages around 20 to 25 when Keeping - which is about the same as Tsollys FC average. Dropping either Duminy or Rudolph who ave around or below 40 for Tsolly means you get a specialist keeper who'll score ABOUT the same runs as a W/Keeping AB would - & it then effectively means that AB's 50ish ave replaces a 40ish batsmen. AB did fluff several chances against England - fortunately they did not cost the Saffas in England! Imagine if AB MAc misses a stumping off Tahir with Clarke on 0, then Pup goes on to make 150? Weakens both batting & bowling!

  • POSTED BY ygkd on | October 31, 2012, 21:08 GMT

    Perhaps SA should take a punt on Tsolekile. De Villiers would probably make more with the bat unburdened with the gloves and Tsolekile would probably snaffle an important extra wicket or two. Yes, if I was in Kirsten's shoes I'd want to maximise the wicket-taking potential, especially given Australia's somewhat fragile batting, at least for the first Test - there's no point batting out a draw. It'd be tough on Rudolph though. He's deserved a second crack at it after being out for so long.

  • POSTED BY Cpt.Meanster on | October 31, 2012, 18:22 GMT

    I think this will be a close series. Neither the Saffers nor the Aussies have any upper hand. A 1-1 draw is the likely scenario.

  • POSTED BY bluefunk on | October 31, 2012, 16:30 GMT

    If Pattinson expects to get on top of Smith psychologically like he did with Sehwag last season, he has a major reality check coming.

  • POSTED BY on | October 31, 2012, 12:29 GMT

    If only Amla and AB fires Aus will bite the dust.

  • POSTED BY Saffie1987 on | October 31, 2012, 12:02 GMT

    @ HatsforBats: Well i can promise you, this time Dale Steyn won't go missing! I will take a lot of wickets! This should be a easy win for South-Africa!

  • POSTED BY jonesy2 on | October 31, 2012, 10:58 GMT

    depth or lack of depth? their batting is a glaring weakness.

  • POSTED BY HatsforBats on | October 31, 2012, 9:30 GMT

    @ landl47; I think the batting prospects in Aus are similar to England really. There's potential in the ranks but no clear choice who could make an immediate and consistent impact. I think most Aus fans would argue that this isn't their preferred lineup. The bowling is exciting so it gets the column inches. As for SA's bowling, a lot may depend on Philander. Morkel can be tremendously expensive and wayward, and Steyn can go missing at times (like during Clarkes excellent 150 in SA). I'm getting all fidgety at the prospect of some excellent performances.

  • POSTED BY Nuxxy on | October 31, 2012, 9:28 GMT

    The difference will be AMLA. Just like in England.

    AB shouldn't keep, but at the same time Tsolekile can't bat. If they insist on AB batting they have to drop him in the order to below Duminy.

  • POSTED BY bestbuddy on | October 31, 2012, 9:21 GMT

    @ballonbat, AB keeping has nothing to do with being negative; its about making the team as strong as possible. Tsolekile for instance is probably not capable enough with the bat to average more than 20 at test level, and these days teams need to bat till at least 7. SA's tail starts at 8 if AB keeps, 7 if he does not. You cannot afford to give the opposition an advantage by allowing them to bat deeper than you, and there is no need to play a 5th bowler when you have kallis as 4th seamer and duminy as a backup spinner. SA are simply playing the their strengths

  • POSTED BY GlobalCricketLover on | October 31, 2012, 9:13 GMT

    Having witnessed how WK duties hindered AB's batting in Eng, not sure why SA still going with him as the keeper.Why mess with his batting?

  • POSTED BY Paulk on | October 31, 2012, 8:27 GMT

    Playing AB as a wicketkeeper didn't really work in England, did it? He was arguably the best and most dynamic batsman in world cricket until then. Going through an entire series scoring 30s and 40s with the added risk of back injury does not seem worth it. I'd rather see him score a double hundred and a hundred in this series being completely focused on his batting. Kirsten and Smith are experienced leaders but I do not understand this logic given the results of the England experiment.

  • POSTED BY ballonbat on | October 31, 2012, 7:53 GMT

    The Proteas must NOT play AB as wicketkeeper. They have in him the best fielder in the world and one of the top batsmen. They also have possibly the strongest batting current lineup. Playing him as keeper will weaken that lineup more than losing the extra batsman will. Drop Rudolph and bring in a specialist keeper who can bat a bit like Thami. They've still got Philander who has a good first class batting record and is growing in confidence as a Test batsman and Steyn who can make a few. Really, if they haven't got confidence in Smith (hs 277), Peterson (182), Amla (311*), Kallis (224), AB (278*) and Duminy (166), then they don't deserve to win the series. Playing AB as wickie would be an ultra-conservative decision (typical of the old Protea teams), which would definitely affect AB's batting negatively and quite possibly lead to his back injury flaring up again and putting him out of the series. Let's see him score a double ton, not a series of 30s and 40s plus a handful of catches.

  • POSTED BY on | October 31, 2012, 7:24 GMT

    Wouldn't RandyOZ be excited like I am, pity, they are not playing in Sydney.

  • POSTED BY on | October 31, 2012, 6:58 GMT

    I hope the Aussies pick a spinner as we have Watson as the fourth quick and at times he has been our best bowler

  • POSTED BY on | October 31, 2012, 6:58 GMT

    I hope the Aussies pick a spinner as we have Watson as the fourth quick and at times he has been our best bowler

  • POSTED BY disco_bob on | October 31, 2012, 6:00 GMT

    Obviously they don't think their batting has the depth required to replace their specialist keeper, it's not like de Villers' taking over the job was a planned decision. This could be their undoing.

  • POSTED BY Micgyver on | October 31, 2012, 5:51 GMT

    Its going to be a fantastic series, ill be at the Gabba watching the 1st test next week.The Australian top order is definitely the weakest link, which will put added pressure on Punter,Clarke and Hussey.I hope im wrong but i dont think Warner has the goods at the moment to face a sustained test pace attack of Steyn, Morkel and Philander, he's going to get found out but i think Cowan will step up.

  • POSTED BY Rabbito on | October 31, 2012, 5:42 GMT

    Should be one of the great series...hopefully!!...just ridiculious there wasn't 4 or 5 tests or 2 mini series of 3 like last time...can't wait for both pats to play together, then we'll have the best pace lineup in the world (maybe 2 years away)...i'm tipping cummins to break the 160 kph mark in the next few years, hes an absolute freak. and @RyanHarrisGreatCricketer, you could also describe him as the most arrogant cricketer ever too!!...got to respect his talent and ability, but not his opinion of himself....

  • POSTED BY Meety on | October 31, 2012, 4:41 GMT

    @landl47 on (October 31 2012, 03:45 AM GMT) - re: competitors for batting spots; we sort of have ELEVEN of them playing against the Saffas on the 2nd of November!

  • POSTED BY anver777 on | October 31, 2012, 4:33 GMT

    Its a daunting series for both teams....... a tough battle is expected & SA strong batting will be tested by Aussies quickies for sure !!!!

  • POSTED BY kh1902 on | October 31, 2012, 4:30 GMT

    I think SA will win - Steyn is the difference, the only great bowler on both sides. I think Australia is a chance only if Ponting has a blinder.

  • POSTED BY landl47 on | October 31, 2012, 3:45 GMT

    It's very interesting that ESPN is carrying 4 articles about the Aus test side and every one is about the competition for bowling places. There isn't a single article about the batting, and yet if Aus has a weakness, it's the batting! If I were an Aus fan I'd be finding it very scary that there is so little competition for batting places that it's not worth running a single article on it. I think the young Aiussie pacemen are great, but unless there are some runs on the board then it's difficult to see Aus beating SA. I'm rooting for Aus in this series (I want to see the Ashes next year being also a contest for the #1 test ranking), but I'm finding it hard to be optimistic that they'll be able to keep Steyn and co. out. Oh, and before anyone makes the obvious comment, I'm also having trouble believing England will score enough runs in India.

  • POSTED BY Meety on | October 31, 2012, 3:32 GMT

    @2nd_Slip on (October 31 2012, 03:12 AM GMT) - you might want to check out Ab deV's batting stats when Keeping wickets. Sth Africa would be better of picking Tsolekile in more ways than one!

  • POSTED BY RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on | October 31, 2012, 3:31 GMT

    what a boring statistical way of describing AB de villiers: he should have been described as poise personified, elegant while driving against quickies , controlled player of horizontal bat shots and magnificent player of spin

  • POSTED BY 2nd_Slip on | October 31, 2012, 3:12 GMT

    With AB Devilliers keeeping SA, by far, have the best batting line up in test crickect at the moment, so i wish he does take one for the team and tke the gloves but then again looking at Aus's not so flattering batting line up, the risk might not be neccessary because Steyn,Morkel and Philander will make easy work of it jst like they did with the Poms.

  • POSTED BY on | October 31, 2012, 2:59 GMT

    Go Bokke. Looking forward to a great series.

  • POSTED BY Buggsy on | October 31, 2012, 2:50 GMT

    Just remember, last time these two teams clashed 12 months ago, the series was drawn 1-1, and that was IN South Africa. This series isn't as one sided as people seem to believe. I'm tipping the Saffas to win, but they have a massive fight on their hands - Australia hasn't lost a test series anywhere since the Ashes two summers ago.

  • POSTED BY Mary_786 on | October 31, 2012, 2:20 GMT

    Can't wait, bring it on, we are ready for the Saffas

  • POSTED BY Meety on | October 31, 2012, 2:17 GMT

    @Brydon C - I was really confident BEFORE I read your article! LOL!

  • POSTED BY on | October 31, 2012, 1:56 GMT

    How is this different to the past when South Africa had Klusener and company... it didn't help them win in Australia then. Australia need to bowl intelligently to the lower order - something they didn't do four years ago when blokes like Steyn and Harris took advantage of the short-pitched rubbish our bowlers were feeding them.

  • POSTED BY on | October 31, 2012, 1:49 GMT

    Watched Pattinson bowl against Ponting last week , Punter being 89 not out overnight , took Pattinson apart early the next day. What was interesting was that pattinson looked a yard faster , than last season and miles quicker than Siddle, be interesting to see what the speed gun says this summer. Pattinson is so strong through the crease its scary , can bowl the magic balls . just as Steyn does.Cummins is obvuously an incredible talent , i think he could be absolutely anything , hopefully he gets a test this season to display his rare gift.

  • POSTED BY goldenyama on | October 31, 2012, 1:48 GMT

    "The Gabba and the WACA will suit Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, arguably the best pace-bowling trio in world cricket." Arguably? Whats the argument? They are 1st, 2nd and 9th in the test bowling rankings. Come on Brydon.

  • POSTED BY Ozcricketwriter on | October 31, 2012, 1:41 GMT

    I just don't like the 12 that were selected. I can't see Ed Cowan holding his own against this pace combo and I can't see Nathan Lyon doing anything at all - nor Hilfenhaus. Mitchell Starc should be a certainty as he, probably along with Pattinson, are the only two likely to do anything. We definitely need to be all pace here. But it looks like, yet again, it is a case of the selectors letting us down. Fingers crossed Lyon ends up as 12th man at least.

  • POSTED BY on | October 31, 2012, 0:48 GMT

    Should make for an interesting spectacle.

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  • POSTED BY on | October 31, 2012, 0:48 GMT

    Should make for an interesting spectacle.

  • POSTED BY Ozcricketwriter on | October 31, 2012, 1:41 GMT

    I just don't like the 12 that were selected. I can't see Ed Cowan holding his own against this pace combo and I can't see Nathan Lyon doing anything at all - nor Hilfenhaus. Mitchell Starc should be a certainty as he, probably along with Pattinson, are the only two likely to do anything. We definitely need to be all pace here. But it looks like, yet again, it is a case of the selectors letting us down. Fingers crossed Lyon ends up as 12th man at least.

  • POSTED BY goldenyama on | October 31, 2012, 1:48 GMT

    "The Gabba and the WACA will suit Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, arguably the best pace-bowling trio in world cricket." Arguably? Whats the argument? They are 1st, 2nd and 9th in the test bowling rankings. Come on Brydon.

  • POSTED BY on | October 31, 2012, 1:49 GMT

    Watched Pattinson bowl against Ponting last week , Punter being 89 not out overnight , took Pattinson apart early the next day. What was interesting was that pattinson looked a yard faster , than last season and miles quicker than Siddle, be interesting to see what the speed gun says this summer. Pattinson is so strong through the crease its scary , can bowl the magic balls . just as Steyn does.Cummins is obvuously an incredible talent , i think he could be absolutely anything , hopefully he gets a test this season to display his rare gift.

  • POSTED BY on | October 31, 2012, 1:56 GMT

    How is this different to the past when South Africa had Klusener and company... it didn't help them win in Australia then. Australia need to bowl intelligently to the lower order - something they didn't do four years ago when blokes like Steyn and Harris took advantage of the short-pitched rubbish our bowlers were feeding them.

  • POSTED BY Meety on | October 31, 2012, 2:17 GMT

    @Brydon C - I was really confident BEFORE I read your article! LOL!

  • POSTED BY Mary_786 on | October 31, 2012, 2:20 GMT

    Can't wait, bring it on, we are ready for the Saffas

  • POSTED BY Buggsy on | October 31, 2012, 2:50 GMT

    Just remember, last time these two teams clashed 12 months ago, the series was drawn 1-1, and that was IN South Africa. This series isn't as one sided as people seem to believe. I'm tipping the Saffas to win, but they have a massive fight on their hands - Australia hasn't lost a test series anywhere since the Ashes two summers ago.

  • POSTED BY on | October 31, 2012, 2:59 GMT

    Go Bokke. Looking forward to a great series.

  • POSTED BY 2nd_Slip on | October 31, 2012, 3:12 GMT

    With AB Devilliers keeeping SA, by far, have the best batting line up in test crickect at the moment, so i wish he does take one for the team and tke the gloves but then again looking at Aus's not so flattering batting line up, the risk might not be neccessary because Steyn,Morkel and Philander will make easy work of it jst like they did with the Poms.