South Africa in Australia 2012-13

Ponting plays down 'gap' between South Africa, Australia

Brydon Coverdale in Brisbane

November 7, 2012

Comments: 86 | Text size: A | A

Ricky Ponting stretches in a training session, Brisbane, November 7, 2012
Ricky Ponting: "Our young quicks are dying to get out there and have a crack at some of their top-order players. You can expect some fireworks." © Getty Images

In early 2009, Ricky Ponting presided over an Australian tour of South Africa when Graeme Smith's men were favourites. Australia were clinging to the No. 1 Test ranking they had held for six years, but South Africa would take it if they won the series. Ponting's side completed an impressive away-series victory and stayed at the top for a few more months, until their Ashes debacle. They haven't returned to No. 1 since. Over the next few weeks, under Michael Clarke's leadership, they can.

This time it's the South Africans who are No. 1 in the world. The top spot is theirs to lose. Again, Smith's team is the favourite ahead of this series. Their record away from home is strong, but it's extremely unusual for Australia to enter a home Test series as the underdogs. But having kept up with South Africa over the past three series - the teams are locked together 4-4 in the past four years - Ponting wants his team-mates to realise how little difference there is between the sides.

"I don't think there's anything negative at all about being an underdog going into a series," Ponting said in Brisbane ahead of the first Test. "South Africa are deservedly the No. 1 team in the world. But I think the gap between them and us is not that great. When we were No. 1 we knew we had everyone chasing us. South Africa are certainly going to know over the next few weeks that they've got a very good cricket team chasing them and trying to take that No. 1 mantle away."

When Ponting was in charge during the golden era of Australian cricket, crushing sides was their modus operandi, clean-sweeps often a formality. It has been a very different story for the South Africans, who are in their second period at No. 1, having originally reached the pinnacle in mid-2009.

The last time South Africa won consecutive Tests in a series was in Perth and Melbourne in 2008. They haven't won any two successive Tests out of their past 20, a time during which they have played New Zealand, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Pakistan, India, Australia and England. By comparison, Australia have won eight of their past ten Tests, having risen from the nadir of the 2009-10 Ashes.

"I don't know what makes them tick, I don't know what makes them worried about big occasions in games," Ponting said. "All I know is that when we've played our best for long periods of time against South Africa we've managed to have a lot of success. We know what it is that makes us play our best cricket. We know what makes us achieve great results. We just have to do those things better than South Africa do for five days."

The series is being billed as a battle between two strong pace attacks, but that in itself means it is also a matter of which batting line-up handles the speed and movement the best. If AB de Villiers takes the wicketkeeping gloves, South Africa will have a long batting order, with JP Duminy likely to come in at No. 7. But Ponting does not believe they will offer any more of a threat than the Indian batsmen did last summer, when Australia took the series 4-0.

"South Africa are deservedly the No. 1 team in the world. But I think the gap between them and us is not that great. South Africa are certainly going to know over the next few weeks that they've got a very good cricket team chasing them and trying to take that No. 1 mantle away." Ricky Ponting

"The attack that we put out last year will be very similar to what we go out with tomorrow in our conditions and conditions that we know very well," he said. "All the guys, Siddle and Pattinson especially, have got a lot of first-class cricket under their belt and have taken a lot of wickets at the start of the summer. We have to know that the way we bowled and the way we played last year was somewhere near our best and if we produce that again, it doesn't matter what batting line-up we're bowling to, we'll take 20 wickets in a Test match.

"We've got some areas for their batsmen that we're going to target. Our young quicks are dying to get out there and have a crack at some of their top-order players. You can expect some fireworks. Some of their top order can expect a lot of short balls as well, that's an area that we think we can really attack them."

Not that they will be alone in doing so. Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, all in the top 10 ICC Test bowling rankings, are all perfectly capable of extracting the same bounce from the Australian pitches, especially the seam-friendly Gabba and WACA surfaces. The good news for the Australians is that they have at least handled Morkel well in the past; his 23 wickets at 38.21 against Australia is vastly inferior to his overall record.

"I think we've played him well in the past," Ponting said of Morkel. "When you're that tall and you bang the ball into the wicket you tend to get more bounce than the shorter fast bowlers do. I think that's his great weapon. We've had a look at what he's done over the last few series… if anything he's managed to bowl a little bit fuller the last few years than he did before that, which has probably enabled him to have more success."

But Morkel is just one part of a strong attack. Handling Steyn and Philander could be even tougher. If Australia can do so, they'll be well on the way to reclaiming that No. 1 position.

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

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Posted by JG2704 on (November 8, 2012, 21:56 GMT)

@shix on (November 08 2012, 13:53 PM GMT) But then I suppose he's also remembering that Aus drew in SA last time so I suppose he must take some confidence from that. Again , Ponting isn't saying we'll beat SA or we are better than SA or anything but what exactly should he say? The Eng series could be the start of a dominant SA era but at the same time it could be that England's poor performances flattered them.

Posted by shix on (November 8, 2012, 13:53 GMT)

punter should not forget that india lost to england 4-0 before they got humiliated by the current australian team with the same result last summer. but the current SA team beat england at their home 2-0, and they came to aus as no.1 test team.

Posted by harshthakor on (November 8, 2012, 11:10 GMT)

South Africa is clearly the more talented team with a better bowling attack and batting line up but the ultimate factor is the performance on the day.The aussies may well rise to the occasion and reverse their form just as they did in the 2nd test in S.Africa last year and when they won the series in S.Africa in 2009 after having just been beaten by the same South African side at home.

The reversals in form of top teams have bee so dramatic in recent years that morally there is no real champion test team.Remember how both India and England crashed so soon from the top of the pedestal.England looked invincible v.Australia in 2010-11 and India in 2011 but were outplayed by Pakistan in the sub-continent.India faced a 180 degree change in fortunes after reaching the top.Imagine Australia winning this series and morally claiming to be world test champions.Remember just 2 years ago England trounced them on their own soil.

Posted by Meety on (November 8, 2012, 10:15 GMT)

@OzzyHammond on (November 08 2012, 09:06 AM GMT) - fact is in your "golden" period they played the mighty NZ - TWICE & Pakistan TWICE in test series - then immediately got done home & away to India & grovelled to WIndies. They never played the Saffas at their pre-apartheid peak - it was an anomoly. The fact is - I said that England over the entire decade were the best team, but at times they got thrashed & they were definately not much ahead of all the other countries. Their win/loss ranking in the period you have now changed to 70 to 73 - was no better than Oz! As I said previously whilst being a fantastic team, your England side of that era - rank behind Bradman's unbeatables, the Taylor/Waugh/Ponting Ozzy era (you could argue there is 3 different teams there), the Lloyd & Richards WIndies era & the Great England side of 55 to 60 - not to mention the potentially greatest team that never was - pre-apartheid Saffas. Your team does not make the top 5.

Posted by JG2704 on (November 8, 2012, 9:30 GMT)

@ maddy20 on (November 07 2012, 08:27 AM GMT) re man for man - Doesn't always work that way though does it? The 2 sides will be fairly similar to the 2 sides that squared off last year and that finished 1-1. Also seem to remember certain sides who "man for man" were better than their opponents coming unstuck

Posted by Hammond on (November 8, 2012, 9:06 GMT)

@Meety- learn your cricket son. Even the historical ICC rankings for the era have England as number one in the 4 years between 1970- 1973. That team would rank as one of the strongest ever, and I would love to see Snow, Willis & Underwood make mincemeat of the current numpty Australian XI.

Posted by Meety on (November 8, 2012, 7:09 GMT)

@Ozzy Hammond on (November 08 2012, 01:53 AM GMT) - "...It was probably their strongest team ever as well..." you claim to know heaps about cricket - I suggest you have a bit more to learn as there has been plenty of analysis on the greatest teams to have played cricket & the 1970s England does NOT feature in them. England's best team was in the late 1950s, & there are 3 teams (2 from Oz, & 1 from WIndies) that were superior. So therefor the 1970s team hardly rates a mention in comparison. The idea when playing cricket is to win, the team you talk about was a relic from the 60s. I find it quite laughable that you have to cherry pick the a 3 year window to find a decent England team. In that period you talked about - I count 4 losses, & every 2nd match was a DRAW! Awe-inspiring! Also - in that period you talk about - 2 of the series were played against NZ & 2 against Pakistan. Then your boys got pantsed in back to back series home & away by India! Greatness hey?

Posted by Meety on (November 8, 2012, 6:49 GMT)

@Ozzy Hammond on (November 08 2012, 01:53 AM GMT) - your comment does not make sense???? I picked early 70s as there was the Saffas (assuming they would of done ok for at least a couple of years), England had a fantastic team, India had a side that - if I recall had been labelled their best ever, Oz was on the road back from the humbling in Saffaland (albeit beforehand they won in India), WIndies were slowly heading towards the Lloyds brigade, Pakistan had their share of wins too. The standard around the early 70s was very high, & due to politics (not going into the reasons), the great Saffa team never happenned & all the other teams had ups & downs. You make out over some obscure period that England had a great side - yet at the time I am talking about - they are only a year or so away from grovelling to the WIndies - who got bashed up by Oz! Over the course of the ENTIRE 70s - England were the best team, but not always - they got belted from time to time - hence EVEN an standard!!!!

Posted by srinkris on (November 8, 2012, 2:33 GMT)

comparing the underperforming aussies against SA .. good joke.. it has been a while Aussies have been sternly tested n everybody remembers what happened when SA toured Aus last time arnd.. go SA go !!!!!!!!

Posted by aby_prasad on (November 8, 2012, 2:09 GMT)

@front foot lunge, lol @ BCCI remark! laughed so much lol.I can almost imagine BCCI saying 'oh no, not us again, what did we do ...again ? and that too...for a aus eng series or aus sa series' with a funny worried face! hahahaha, good one! Oh how i miss the dravids,laxmans and sachins of yesteryears and how i wish for one gr8 fast bowler, just one like s.a.,aus or eng has! , we would hav been back to the top 3 at least then and just stop this goddamit decline we r going thru :( . Good luck to s.a. and aus then! , the best test series usually belongs to one of these teams involved always!,either with each other or someone else.Ok the trailers (t20) are over, and now,..LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!!

Posted by Hammond on (November 8, 2012, 1:53 GMT)

@Meety- doesn't surprise me that you picked that time period- in reality, England played 24 test matches between 1969 and 1972 and lost 2. It was probably their strongest team ever as well. As per usual, English success just gets passed over.

Posted by dunger.bob on (November 8, 2012, 1:18 GMT)

@ Maddy20 : You asked "who are they kidding". The answer is nobody. Mainly because they aren't trying to kid anyone. These comments aren't an attempt at "mental disintegration" or any such nonsense. Australians aren't prone to beating about the bush and this is a typical upbeat but essentially honest response from a a cricketer who has been sending out the exact same message for the last 15 years or so. Ponting is always upbeat and forthright in his comments so don't expect anything else from him.

I expect SA to win this series because I don't think our batting is strong enough to hold them off. This will be my first good look at Steyn and I can't wait to watch the master in action. From what I've seen to date, there's a lot to like about his bowling and he may be a bit too good for our poorish batting line up.

Amla is a huge worry. Much depends on whether they can contain him. If he bats and bats and bats we are no hope. Simple as that I reckon.

Posted by Meety on (November 8, 2012, 0:45 GMT)

Punter's completely right. The gap between the top 6 is as close as it has been in probably 40 years (I'd say early 70s). IF Sth Africa were so brilliant they would have a few more Ws on their recent form guide - they don't. They are a good side - a long way from proven great. They have some great players & this should be a first rate series. Form guide bgetween these two sides shows Oz win games - the Saffas don't lose many - & it's 4 all! Whilst the Saffas have improved since the last time they met - Oz have improved even more. Keep leaking those dossiers Punter!

Posted by sawifan on (November 8, 2012, 0:14 GMT)

@bouncedout. You have that catch on DVD yeah? That's quite funny considering it was a run-out.

Posted by OzWally on (November 7, 2012, 23:47 GMT)

Wondering why so many folks determine Tahir to be so far superior to Lyon. Would you believe Lyon has the 3rd best average 27.83 (only bested by Ashwin & Ajmal) and the 2nd best strike rate 57.5 (only Ashwin is better) of all top line spinners in the world today.

Posted by subbass on (November 7, 2012, 23:40 GMT)

Only way OZ wins this is if SA perform at about 20% of their best. Comfortable win for the saffers imo.

Posted by Saffie1987 on (November 7, 2012, 21:38 GMT)

@ Jonesy2 : You better get of that " Nose Candy" Mate!

Posted by JG2704 on (November 7, 2012, 20:22 GMT)

Still don't understand how Ponting is adjudged by some as being arrogant/macho in what he says in this article. If you look at Australia's form since the last Ashes defeat , by and large it has been up with SA's. He's not saying we're going to do this or do that to SA , just saying the gap isn't that big and if you are to go by the last series between the 2 , it backs up what he says

Posted by JG2704 on (November 7, 2012, 20:09 GMT)

@Geoffrey Anthony Plumridge on (November 07 2012, 10:43 AM GMT) Depends if your benchmark is the sides if yesteryear or the sides that are around at the moment

Posted by tanstell87 on (November 7, 2012, 17:38 GMT)

Kaliis is far better than Ponting.

Posted by bouncedout on (November 7, 2012, 16:53 GMT)

@Dev9212.. Actually Dev there is a better sight than Ponting batting...The look on his face when he go caught by the substitute fielder during the Ashes in 2005. I have it on DVD and watch it when I'm sad...absolutely priiceless!!

Posted by jonesy2 on (November 7, 2012, 15:29 GMT)

this sums it up. starc and hilfenhaus are better than morkel (obviously), siddle is better than philander (obviously), and lyon is many classes better than tahir (obviously). clarke is better than amla, ponting is better than kallis, hussey is better than de villiers, wade is better than duminy, warner is better than peterson (obviously). the only edge where SA have it is smith is better than cowan. rudolph and quiney cancel each other out as do steyn and pattinson if both are at their best maybe you would give it to steyn but the way pattinson bowled last summer was as good as anyone has ever bowled. having said that it should be a very close and brilliant series. cricket does not get better than this, this is the two best teams in the world going at it early in the summer.

Posted by sony_sr on (November 7, 2012, 14:56 GMT)

aus top-order is average, their middle order is aged (38, 32, 38), spinner is below average. only positive is fast bowling unit. south africa has all 3 sections (batting, fast bowling and spin) of highest quality. so on paper sa is far far better than aus and should win the series convincingly.

Posted by Ross_Co on (November 7, 2012, 14:33 GMT)

How fortunate are we in Australia that for the second year running we'll see two of the top three national cricket teams in the world battling it out. This shouldn't be taken for granted - 'England' fans never get to see this. Last year, despite the pasting their 'B' team took in England, India's full strength team was widely predicted by Indian & 'England' fans to achieve a 4-nil result. Which they did - :). Now the same people are predicting a Saffa whitewash. True Saffa fans know better - most likely result is a drawn series or one test either way. Regardless of the result it will be great to watch two top flight teams entirely made up of people playing for their country.

Posted by Dev9212 on (November 7, 2012, 13:42 GMT)

Would love to see punter play some big innings, there is nothing better in cricket than watching punter and tendulkar bat. So i really hope both these players find some form in the respective upcoming series.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (November 7, 2012, 13:37 GMT)

I'd say SA are the slight favourites at the moment. Well balanced and settled side, and barring AB I don't think there are any injury concerns. Australia are rebuilding... Do they have the fight? Ans. yes. Do they have talented players? Ans. yes. But as a unit on the whole there is more negativety to answer for and try to cope with than the current SA team. Looking forward to a great series.

Posted by Selassie-I on (November 7, 2012, 13:35 GMT)

That's a classic from ponting!! Justy looking at the potential teams - Warner v Smith - Very inconsistent, against one of the best openers in the game Cowan v Peterson - A player who wouldn't even get in the Bangladesh team, against an experience decent test batsman.AP Ponting v Kallis - Both once great, now only Kallis is, Kallis bowls too Clarke v Amla - equal Quiney v ABDV - uncapped witha low 1st class ave, one of the classiest batsmen in the game Duminy v Wade - Proven mid order batsman, untested batsman who just about got some runs against WI Lyon v Tahir - a groundsman against a quality spinner from pakistan, witha good wrong 'un. Siddle v Philander - no 7 in ranksings, no2,. in rankings - a clear 112 points in between Hifenhouse v Steyn - No. 6 v no1, best bowler in the world for 5 years Pattinson v Morkel - player early on in career v experience There is only one place in the teams where they are equal, SA have 6 int he top 10s, Aus have 2.

Posted by SamAsh07 on (November 7, 2012, 13:08 GMT)

South Africa will choke, get real fans :P

Posted by Front-Foot_lunge on (November 7, 2012, 13:07 GMT)

If Australia does lose and fans do need to get their excuses ready as (@hammond suggests), might I just point them to CricInfo's excellent series archive. In there you can relive the majesty of my England's inept performance against the Proteas over the summer. In there you'l find a raft of excuses ready made for australian consumption. These include "too many south africans in the side" to "not enough south africans in the side", "Swans elbow rendered him ineffectual although we supposedly have magnificent depth" and the old favourite "umpires did us in". If all else fails, and you do lose, you can copy England's stalwart excuse and just "blame the BCCI".

Posted by   on (November 7, 2012, 12:46 GMT)

everyone forgets we just played out a draw series against a strong SA team at there home ground 1-1... all tho the Aussies team got bowled out for the lowest total, we still came back and won the final match to even the scores, i feel our preparations is alot better and the guys have been playing for there respected clubs and state teams, hoping they pick the right quick's for this test, i feel Siddle Pattinson and Starc for good variety but Hilfy has also done no wrong, Lyons to plays, need to keep there lefties quiet for the series.

I think we will do well this series, i think the new boys will fire for this series, look out SA.

Posted by   on (November 7, 2012, 12:38 GMT)

Glad the Tests are here, sad it's only a 3 match series. Seriously, this doesn't qualify as an 'icon' Series??? Really?

Posted by Dr.Vindaloo on (November 7, 2012, 12:36 GMT)

Typical macho nonsense from Ponting about bouncers, fireworks, targeting certain players etc. It's a tired old spiel that we've heard from Australia for years and rings increasingly hollow. Who does he think he's kidding?

Posted by heathrf1974 on (November 7, 2012, 12:34 GMT)

I do think though some people here are underestimating the Aussies bowling. It has improved since the the Ashes debacle of 09/10. I hope Lyon bowls well. He could be a key player in Adelaide.

Posted by heathrf1974 on (November 7, 2012, 12:28 GMT)

SA are definite favourites. But hopefully the Aussies will rise to the challenge. Hopefully.

Posted by Haleos on (November 7, 2012, 12:24 GMT)

Good luck Punter and Oz. Hope you win the series confortbly. Oz fast bowling attack holds a lot of promise. Glad overrated khawaja is out. Can not believe the draught of batsman in Aus currently that players with just good enough domestic average are hailed as next greats in the waiting.

Posted by Highflyer_GP on (November 7, 2012, 12:21 GMT)

Australia always brings their A-game against SA, so I wouldn't play them down. Matches aren't won on paper, and the laws of probability dictate that SA can't remain unbeaten away forever. It's going to be a tough and close series.

Posted by James.The.Ripper on (November 7, 2012, 12:04 GMT)

At last cricket fans like me will get to see some real cricket i.e test cricket. Rankings in this kind of series are pointless, both teams are equally good. All the best to both teams.

Posted by bumsonseats on (November 7, 2012, 12:03 GMT)

front-foot_lunge. please of the batters can you tell me were these are coming from. when YOUR team are playing 2 x 38 year olds ( ponting / hussey ) and talk of a 36 year old d hussey being in line to take a batting place. plus what are really T20 players in warner and watson pray tell us were YOUR top talent are aussies are kidding yourselves. the averages tell us all about the so called talent

Posted by bumsonseats on (November 7, 2012, 11:53 GMT)

before the saffars came to england i thought that england would beat them, but that was not to be. but looking at that series on completion we could have won it. we dropped so many catches and gave both amla and petersen chances before they had got into double figures in their big innings.the last test we should have won. is this wishful thinking, well some aussies thought they were better than us though even though we beat them by 3 innings defeats. do the aussies have a chance of course they do, as i dont think they will drop as many catches as we did. but i feel they will have to bat out of their skins, their bowlers will have to be at them at all times. a few weeks ago i thought 3 - 0 to the saffars but how 1 - 0 but i think it will be close. just hope that its not one sided. i cannot wait as these are series that you want to watch.

Posted by 158notout on (November 7, 2012, 11:51 GMT)

@jonesy - to be honest i think that was a typo from the journo. I am sure he meant the 2010/11 Ashes which were Australias nadir. They were forced to do an impression of England in the 90's - muddled selections, dodgy fielding, awful batting and not taking wickets. 2009 was closer but then the team that won the big sessions won the Ashes. And that was not Australia. Really looking forward to this series because it will be a good benchmark as to whether Australia are actualyl any good now or if their results look good because they have been playing minnows.

Posted by sawifan on (November 7, 2012, 11:51 GMT)

Punter is giving an interview, and hence gives his opinion to the journo, and his opinion isn't far from the truth. He is obviously also playing some games as well, because he knows as well as anyone how fragile the SAF team can be, and have been in the past. With everyone saying how average this AUS team is and how great this SAF team is, how is it then that almost the same 2 teams had a drawn series, 1-1 last year?! SAF are deservedly the #1 team at the moment, however all teams (top5) are quite even. And @Hammond, most true AUS supporters (and the media) dont come up with excuses for losses, we hunt our own team for answers, the same can't be said for many ENG supporters and their media. Remember ENG v PAK and the recent series v SAF. We're all still hearing excuses about them! Anyway, lets go AUS, but more importantly, lets go TEST CRICKET!!! About time!!

Posted by   on (November 7, 2012, 11:41 GMT)

I prefer South Africa 2 win the series still I am a fan of great juicy cricket none theless \\ my teams are & will always be WEST INDIES SOUTH AFRICA SRI LANKA IL LIKE BANGLADESH RESPECT AUSTRAILIA DUE 2 THERE HUNGER 2 WIN NEVER SAY DIE ATTITUDE BLESS ALL

Posted by   on (November 7, 2012, 11:34 GMT)

Get real. At present the GAP is HUGH . SA is flying high in world cricket with lots of players to choose from . The Aussies main player WATSON is out on sick leave.

Posted by Unomaas on (November 7, 2012, 11:15 GMT)

Fair comment by Punter. Any true Saffa supporter will tell you that it doesn't matter what the stats say, when Aus and SA battle it out, it will be as equals although I would give SA the slightest edge. All things said and done...the drama will unfold in 2 days time. As with the POM series, it will come down to grinding and attritional cricket at a session level. SA will be slow out of the blocks can Aus capitilise on that? SA are mentally challenged so fair game for the Aussies to exploit that weakness. The first session of the first test will set the tempo for the whole series. If SA bowl first, will Aus top 3 be able to last that first session? Similarly, if SA bat first, can the Aus pace attack dislodge Amla and Smith cheaply? Either way, alot of questions will be answered after that first session!

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (November 7, 2012, 11:11 GMT)

Ponting plays down 'gap' between South Africa, Australia

well, whatever helps you sleep at night, rickyboy!

Posted by Hammond on (November 7, 2012, 11:07 GMT)

All I can say to Aussie cricket fans is get your excuses ready. This one is going to sting a bit.

Posted by   on (November 7, 2012, 10:52 GMT)

The series should be well contested. Personally, I want SA to do well but I have a feeling Australians will end up winning the series. Aussies play competitive brand of Cricket and are great at playing well under pressure, something SA needs to learn how to handle. Good luck SA.

Posted by   on (November 7, 2012, 10:51 GMT)

The issue Aussies have is the batting. Still relies heavily on Ponting, Clarke & Hussey and with Watson out Aussies will have to bat out of their skins to beat SAF. Also the bowling, is one thing walloping a weak Indian side but this SAF side has hardly any weekness. Though AB de villiers keeping wicket can get worst if he pulls his back for one reason or the other. While it has the making of a good series mainly because SAF are very strong and Aussies are at home, Michael Clarke's captiancy is what I'm personally looking forward to. Not many captains in International Cricket are as good as him. My gut fee is SAF have just enough to beat the Aussies.

Posted by   on (November 7, 2012, 10:49 GMT)

sure it wont be any one sided series. will be a tussle. a little margin to seperate winners from losers. And for any other wayto go either has todo very badly or too good in their act.

Posted by   on (November 7, 2012, 10:46 GMT)

I love test cricket. After all those silly T20 tournaments, it will be great to finally watch real Cricket. Good luck to both teams.

Posted by Arrow011 on (November 7, 2012, 10:44 GMT)

Like Duncan Fletcher ditched India against his former team England, hope Mickey Arthur does not do the same to Aussies & make Saffers win. If Mickey plays loyal to his new employers Australia will win 3-0 for sure. If Mickey plays Mickey then Australia will lose.

Posted by   on (November 7, 2012, 10:43 GMT)

@JG2704- actually, if you look at the standard of test cricket at the moment, Australia are the epitome of average. Revolving door of mediocre players allied to Dad's army, brittle middle order and a different opening combination and spinner every season. Does anyone think this current Australian side would have been able to even mildly trouble any of the great teams of the past? Seriously?

Posted by Arrow011 on (November 7, 2012, 10:37 GMT)

Australia will win 3-0, the South Africans are chokers they cannot maintain their standards for long periods, with England they became lucky when KP was dropped for the last test. Go Aussies crush the Saffers.

Posted by LordKratos on (November 7, 2012, 10:29 GMT)

Current form is what wins matches and not so long ago you was bowled out for 47! And we all know that even that margin was flattering as it could have been much worse

Posted by Clan_McLachlan on (November 7, 2012, 10:17 GMT)

He's right, for a backwater underpopulated desert nation Aussie sports teams in all codes have usually punched above their weight. This cricket team is no exception, they might yet ambush the Saffas.

Posted by SnowSnake on (November 7, 2012, 10:14 GMT)

Why is Ponting even talking He is not a captain and recent history shows that all he does is do his talking and not deliver. Why can't he just keep quiet?

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (November 7, 2012, 9:56 GMT)

Lets put it this way Punto. There is a bigger gap between SA and OZ, than SA and England. That about sums it up.

Posted by jonesy2 on (November 7, 2012, 9:55 GMT)

whatsmore, south africas depth is non-existent, one injury or drop in form and they have no answers

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (November 7, 2012, 9:54 GMT)

Wow, what arrogance from Pointing, victory will be even sweeter now. In a few sentences he basically said Oz is a brilliant team, always beats SA, SA are chokers and playing at home will give them an matchable advantage. Really looking forward to SA ending his test career after this series after that statement.

Posted by jonesy2 on (November 7, 2012, 9:53 GMT)

ok first of all, 2009 ashes debacle? australia dominated the poms in that series but somehow lost mainly due to ridiculous umpiring. secondly, there is no gap between south africa and australia. if anything its a gap in favour of australia. australia's bowling is far and away better than south africa's and the batting is very even maybe australia edge it there aswell with hussey at 6.

Posted by peeeeet on (November 7, 2012, 9:47 GMT)

As an Aussie, I hope we take the series, but I know that they are the stronger team. They have a very strong and experienced batting line up, the majority of which are in form. We have some extremely good batters in Clarke, Ponting and Hussey, but then four others still trying to prove themselves. Our bowling isn't quite of the same quality, and losing Watson is a blow. However, the Aussies don't back down and very rarely give up, and it's that attitude that will keep us in the series.

Posted by pat_one_back on (November 7, 2012, 9:43 GMT)

@FFL I think you're mostly spot on but hold more faith the seasoned & seniors will do their jobs and ensure these tests are well contested.

Posted by pat_one_back on (November 7, 2012, 9:38 GMT)

@Hammond, have a read of @FFL and educate yourself, knocking Aust won't help England.

Posted by byebyebaseball on (November 7, 2012, 9:35 GMT)

Ponting is a great player, but RIP. Let's look forward. SA will win this series. Who is coming up in the future? Will England revive? (in the short term, what is KP's role in that?) Can the Windies come back?

Posted by JG2704 on (November 7, 2012, 9:32 GMT)

@Hammond on (November 07 2012, 08:38 AM GMT) You know it doesn't work like that. I'm an Eng fan too but Aus are not a bog standard side. Maybe nowhere near what they were 5-10 years ago but they are still a capable side and Clarke is a superb captain

Posted by JG2704 on (November 7, 2012, 9:28 GMT)

This is a really tough series to call. Aus drew the last series and that was in SA, however I'd say home advantage rarely matters with SA because their home and away records seem to be fairly similar - whether that's because they are so good away or not as great as they should be at home is open to interpretation. I think SA will be more under pressure as they have just got the number 1 status which so many said was rightfully theirs for so long.So now they have to defend and justify their tag. They have become the hunted rather than the hunters. As I said before the England/SA series - there is little between Eng/SA and Aus.Eng had a bad series vs SA (a bad 2012) and Aus had a bad series vs Eng but I still think both sides are fairly close.There's a saying in boxing that styles make fights and Aus certainly have the style to make it hard for SA and maybe beat them too. Personally I'm hoping Aus winn because if Eng win in India (huge if) it would bring all 3 sides closer together.

Posted by bouncedout on (November 7, 2012, 9:26 GMT)

You can't blame Ponting for resorting to mind games, the only chance Aus have is if SA crumble as they have on occasions in the past.

Posted by getsetgopk on (November 7, 2012, 9:26 GMT)

I remember he said something similiar when Pak beat Auss in the 2011 WC match, Mr. Ponting may not be in the habbit of appretiating his opponnet but equally important that he stop dreaming of being the Auss side he once led, far from it, this Aussie side is a shadow of the past, only positive I can see is the pacemen that rolled out the assembly line in past few years, batting is a big worry so is the lack of a quality spin bowler.

Posted by pat_one_back on (November 7, 2012, 9:23 GMT)

Nice framing Ricky, those speaking of current form, you really mean matches you like to remember in the way it suits you to remember. India weren't considered has beens until Aust sent them home that way. Probable no but Realistically SA can be too, this batting line up was schooled were by a teenager @home not so long ago, current form hey...

Posted by Front-Foot_lunge on (November 7, 2012, 9:14 GMT)

The result in the series will favour the South Africans by a large margin. Its just that Australia is too green at the moment and their performance, as with all green teams, will fluctuate wildy - sometimes they'll be un-playayble, others they'll be ordinary. Over a 5 day test, this will be telling. Come next year though, those two extremes will get closer together, and the tour of India and finally here in the UK, they will gel into a good side. They have so much talent coming through, a fact only learned cricket followers seem to recognise.

Posted by slappinjax on (November 7, 2012, 9:06 GMT)

It's pretty simple really, South Africa have a fantastic team with some excellent players but they traditionally do not handle pressure well. This is evidenced by the fact they perform better away from home, as well as their known propensity to choke in tough situations. When things are going well for them they are peerless but if you can get them into a dogfight they can fall apart pretty easily. Unfortunately, the modern group of Australian players don't handle pressure as well as the former golden generation who won a lot of games not by thrashing teams but by winning the key moments of matches. Australia needs to make sure they keep in touch with the Saffas and apply the blowtorch when the time is right.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (November 7, 2012, 8:58 GMT)

If the pitches are as spicy as predicted, having that long batting lineup will be key for SA. Duminy coming in at 7 is a luxury, but after this tour I think they'll start selecting a proper keeper and unless Rudolph has a great series he'll be out.

Posted by SoverBerry2 on (November 7, 2012, 8:51 GMT)

"Ponting does not believe they will offer any more of a threat than the Indian batsmen did last summer". Was there any threat last summer?

Posted by CricketMaan on (November 7, 2012, 8:44 GMT)

Ponting can be rest assured that there is NONE in Aus today 'elbowing' him or Hussey out..the likes of Forest, Fergusen, Voges, Hughes have all shown promise but no consitency, and an X factor is lacking. So i do see him travel to both India and England in playing XI. I would like to see Aus after Ponting and Huss (just like what is happening with India after RD and VVS gone). With no world class spinner comming up the ranks just fragile fast bowlers won't be enough to win in sub continent. Ponting's record in India is ridiculous but then its better to take him than a newbie.

Posted by Chark_attack on (November 7, 2012, 8:41 GMT)

@Minus Zero that only helps stress the argument this article is providing that Australia and SA are pretty close

Posted by Hammond on (November 7, 2012, 8:38 GMT)

C'mon Ricky, be honest with yourself. A team that can beat England in England (and so convincingly too) will be all over this bog average Aussie side.

Posted by ajayrcs on (November 7, 2012, 8:36 GMT)

Most awaited series of this year, just love test cricket nothing can outshadow it. Waiting to see Ponting to score it doesn't matter how much just score some So, that the time given to watch cricket don't go waste. And Ponting will play for another year more, Because he is more fit than anyone in the side even at this age.

Posted by popcorn on (November 7, 2012, 8:34 GMT)

Ponting is the ONE PERSON - batsman,fielder and mental disintegrator - that South Africa fear most.His ruthless nature,combined with the suave tactical nous of Captain Clarke will be too hot for South Africa to handle.Chokers.

Posted by stormy16 on (November 7, 2012, 8:27 GMT)

I think there is a big gap between Aus and SA, actually Eng and SA were closer and Eng had no answers to SA. I am afraid it will be a similar scenario for Aus. The SA attack is much stronger as is their batting. If you match up the players, on paper atleast, SA are the better team. Forget about India last summer - knocking over the Indian batters is one thing but SA offer a totally different challenge and short bowling will not intimidate them. There are some great match up in these two teams and should be a great series and I expect a SA win.

Posted by maddy20 on (November 7, 2012, 8:27 GMT)

Your kidding right Mr.Punter? Man for man SA vs Aus lets see who is better Openers 1)David Warner vs Graeme Smith 2)Quiney vs Alviro Middle Order: Ponting , Clarke vs Amla, Kallis Wade vs AB, Hussey vs Duminy As for bowling comparing anyone from the current Aussie squad to Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel or 7 matches 50 wickets Philander would be a joke. Its about time Aussies faced the reality, buckled down and get stuck to their task, instead of engaging in "mental disintegration" tactics(as Steve Waugh once put it). I mean who are they kidding?

Posted by YoPatel on (November 7, 2012, 7:35 GMT)

To Ricky,

"Australia will slip further in the ranking!!". And Gap in between India, Australia ranking is just 7 points. Aussies loose again SA and India win against England is highly likely.

Posted by   on (November 7, 2012, 7:26 GMT)

It may be ponting last series . He is under lot of pressure to perform . As he normally does,start to play mind games before the series ... SA are good unit now and it should be a cracker of a series,if the pitch is bowlers friendly . ALL THE BEST PROTEAS ..

Posted by LordKratos on (November 7, 2012, 7:14 GMT)

Forget the past Mr Ponting, current form is what you should be banking on and based on that youl find that this saffa side is that much stronger.

Posted by Chark_attack on (November 7, 2012, 7:13 GMT)

Good to see an article that is taking a realistic perspective on the teams chances while im tipping South africa to get up but not by anywere near as much as everyone seems to think

Posted by   on (November 7, 2012, 7:02 GMT)

Gonna be a cracker! I feel that SA have a slight edge in the batting and bolwing departments, a little bit more experience overall as well. Hoping for a tight series! A more tantilising prospect than SA vs Eng for sure!!

Posted by MinusZero on (November 7, 2012, 6:36 GMT)

Winning 8 out their last 10 means nothing since it was against West Indies, New Zealand and an India in serious decline. The last time they played a top team was South Africa and it was a drawn series.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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