Australia A v South Africans, Sydney November 1, 2012

'Crash-test dummies' ready for world's best


Andrew McDonald, the Australia A captain, has said his batting line-up will "be sent in as crash-test dummies" against South Africa's pace attack ahead of the first Test. The South Africans are likely to field their Test XI in the three-day warm up at the SCG and McDonald does not seem to think Australia A are being tasked with softening up the opposition's bowlers, who are being talked about as the best in the world.

"It's a nice attack, isn't it? It's an attack you'd want at your disposal," McDonald said. "But the Australians have got a good attack as well this summer. So it's going to be a battle of the pace quartets or however they shape up. It's going to be a red-hot series.

"We've been sent in first as crash-test dummies. We haven't had tour games like this for a while. It's a great inclusion in the Australian summer: to have the next best side in Australia take on the side that's the best in the world. It's a great opportunity for us and a good opportunity for the South Africans to find a little bit of form. Hopefully we can put up a good contest."

McDonald's take on the practice match is markedly different to the way the South African A side saw their role exactly a year ago when they hosted Australia in Potchefstroom. They were presented with a pitch that the groundsman later apologised for - a snake pit with awkward bounce which proved difficult to bat on.

The four-day match lasted only three days and even though Australia won, the South Africans felt they had struck some telling blows by limiting the amount of time Australian batsmen had at the crease. But McDonald thinks playing those kinds of mind games are pointless because the visitors will not regard the fixture as anything more than training.

"It's just another step in their preparations," he said. "The first psychological blow will be the first session of the first Test and anything leading into that will be just be lip service. They will be looking to get a solid hit-out because it's their last competitive game before the Test match."

His approach would appear to be more traditional and in the spirit of practice games, which is the norm when teams tour. Contrastingly, South Africa A decided to be hostile last year and were quietly smirking when Australia were bowled out for 47 in the first Test in Cape Town. That may not have all been their doing, though.

Early-season pitches at Newlands (where a November Test had last been played more than 100 years ago) also had their impact and South Africa will find themselves in similar unfamiliarity. The first Test is in Brisbane and South Africa have not played a Test there since readmission. For that reason, and a few others like the lack of first-class cricket for most of the South African squad, the tour match will be a serious affair.

McDonald shares the views that, "a competitive game puts a good edge on your preparations for the series". Although his team will not be unwelcoming, McDonald gave an assurance there would be an aggressive element to the fixture. "Every game you try to win it and we're going to try to move in the direction to make sure the game gets to a result," he said.

South Africa's XI points to the same thing. In the interests of match time, they are likely to field the same team that will turn out in Brisbane next week. Jacques Kallis, their only concern, has recovered from flu and is available for selection. If he sits out, it will be only because "he has not had a break from cricket since England," Mohammed Moosajee, the team manager explained. Kallis and Morne Morkel both played in England, at the World T20 and at the Champions League and will need to be assessed before it is decided if they will play.

Australia A have only named 11 players so their team is already decided. Some of them, most notably Phillip Hughes, Steven Smith and Moises Henriques, will want to use the match as an opportunity to catch the national selectors' eyes. McDonald is another player who could seek to do that, although he is not overly optimistic about his chances.

"Playing in the A side is a step in the right direction [for a national recall]. To captain is also a nice feather in the cap," he said. "But if the Australian team is successful and they get off to a good start, there probably won't be too many spots this summer and we're hoping that's the case."

McDonald has played four Test matches, all against South Africa in 2009, and he said in the event he is reselected, he will be ready. "You want to improve every year and I am a better player than last time I stepped out in Australian colours," he said. "I'll be more prepared than I was last time, having had that little bit of experience before. I think that given the opportunity, I'd be able to take up a role there."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 2, 2012, 5:00 GMT

    I used dislike the Australian cricket team for being too cocky and uncouth but now they are more likable as they play the game competitively yet in a much better spirit than they used. The fact that they are more likely to lose now also helps lol However it is good that they are setting a good example for BCCI, 1 wood never hear of the ACB doing something as cowardly as deciding not to select pacers against a touring side for fear that the oppositions batsmen will somehow suddenly transform into good batsmen vs fast bowling. lmao

  • Paul on November 2, 2012, 1:52 GMT

    I wish I had $1 for every article which heaps scorn on the Australian team for the 47 in Cape Town, but conveniently fails to mention the SA side were also dismissed for less than 100 in the previous innings. Then if you needed proof of the international cricketing media's all-consuming pessimism towards the Australian side, at the expense of any balanced commentary, you'd only need look at my bulging piggy bank!

  • Dummy4 on November 2, 2012, 0:27 GMT

    Can watch the game on the CA site on this url

  • Sriraj on November 1, 2012, 21:56 GMT

    While so many people are expecting Australia A to "soften up" SA with their long batting line-up, don't forget that if they lose the toss and end up bowling first, they might have to chase leather for a couple of days! A slightly risky decision...

  • Sriraj on November 1, 2012, 21:41 GMT

    @hyclass: I agree about the pitches in SA. While I hate those underprepared dustbowls thrown in Mumbai and Delhi like any other fan, I have also been shocked by the ridiculously tacky pitches served up in SA recently too. That Cape Town test was definitely such a case and I remember SL being bundled on a similar pitch on the following tour too. Philander is a good bowler moving it both ways; but his stats are overly inflated due to those pitches just like Ashwin's stats in India. The MCG has one of the fairest pitches I've seen which is not surprising given it's a drop-in.

  • Prasanna on November 1, 2012, 13:49 GMT

    Never expected Aus to beat india last year and were in for a pleasant surprise. But the chances of springing in similar surprises against a rampant SA appear less likely, though i will be more than happy to take it !! SA looks stronger with its mighty batting and bowling lineups, but still, love you Aus !! Go for it !!!

  • Troy on November 1, 2012, 11:12 GMT

    I like this idea for the A squad. A team to put SA through their paces, give us a look at them, while not revealing anything about what might be coming up. I can't see to many of the A squad playing in the upcoming tests, although Hughes and maybe MacDonald could come into contention later this season. I'd also love to see hastings considered for Tests.

  • Guy on November 1, 2012, 11:00 GMT

    So, @disco_bob, exactly which one of the Aust A bowlers is going to "soften South Africa up". South Africa will declare 3 down against this pop gun attack. Inverarity's all-rounder obsession will not succeed in worrying South Africa's batsmen - more likely bowl them into form. @nthuq might be on to something, but I think its a very negative approach

  • Andrew on November 1, 2012, 10:50 GMT

    @ HatsforBats on (November 01 2012, 08:34 AM GMT) - LOL! I was shocked! @Hyclass - they did have a round of domestic FC or two prior.

  • Noor on November 1, 2012, 8:54 GMT

    If the goal is to inflict psychological scars on SA, then it looks like it'll be up to our A batsman. What better a way is there to irritate a bowling lineup than by having batsmen down to number 9? Hopefully two of those batsmen can come together and grind Steyn and co down for a day or two.

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