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November 18, 2012
Any sense of haughtiness among Australia's players, after what amounted to a points-victory over South Africa in Brisbane, has been ardently shooed away by Michael Hussey as the two sides reconvened in Adelaide. Much chatter was devoted to the momentum the hosts gained over the final three days of the Gabba Test, recovering from a poor first day with the ball and a dire first hour with the bat to be the only side with a chance of victory on the final afternoon.
Chief among the proponents of this view was Australia's captain Michael Clarke, who opened his regular newspaper column with the following words: "It's amazing how much can be taken out of a draw". Hussey, however, was intent on snapping Australia out of repose and back into a state of urgency, rejecting the notion that Brisbane's psychological blows would have much bearing on proceedings at Adelaide Oval from Thursday.
Reminded of the corresponding sequence of Test matches during the 2010-11 Ashes series, in which England batted their way out of a considerable hole in Brisbane and then took that confidence into fashioning a startling first half-hour in Adelaide, Hussey said the first session of the second Test would say far more about its outcome than any of the days' play that preceded it in the first.
One significant difference between 2010 and 2012 is the additional times the two sides have had between matches, allowing South Africa's players to holiday while Australia's returned to home ports. Whatever fatigue developed over the course of two lengthy first innings in Brisbane has thus been suitably flushed out.
"I don't really like to think we take any momentum coming out of Brisbane," Hussey said. "I think we start nil-all again, and the first session is very important. Coming out of Brisbane in the Ashes a couple of years ago we lost the first session against England here in Adelaide very poorly, we were 3 for 1 in the first half an hour of the match and were basically playing catch up from then, so it's very important that we start this match well.
"What's happened in Brisbane is gone, it doesn't really matter, what matters is that first hour, that first half an hour in this Test match - we've got to start better than we did a couple of years ago against England."
Clarke used the term "patchy" to define Australia's overall display at the Gabba, and this is something that must improve if his team is to prosper this week. Should the bowlers be called upon first, they will have an even narrower window for early wickets than was afforded by the Brisbane surface, as Adelaide's turf can lose its vestigial early moisture in a matter of minutes. The top-order batsmen, meanwhile, cannot rightly expect to give up 3 for 40 and again be bailed out by Clarke and Hussey.
South Africa are also unlikely to be so accommodating again if they have the chance to press home an early advantage. It was clear in Brisbane that the loss of the second day to rain sapped Graeme Smith's side of the expectation that there was sufficient time to win the match, but no such precipitation is forecast for Adelaide and its desert climate. Hussey would not entertain the suggestion that South Africa's Test side is not collectively ruthless enough, pointing to the world rankings as proof of their capacity to go in for the kill.
"They're the No. 1 team in the world, so they've obviously been ruthless in Test matches and won Test matches playing their style of play," Hussey said. "So I don't think you can question the way they go about their Test cricket, because they've been so successful for quite a period of time.
"I think we're close definitely, and I believe we can beat them definitely, but we're going to have to play good, hard disciplined Test match cricket for long periods of time. We can't just do it for an hour or a session, we've got to be able to do that all day, and back it up day after day. The one thing they've been able to do in the past few years is they play good, hard disciplined Test cricket for long periods of time, and that's why they're No. 1.
"That's what we're aspiring to do and I don't think we're far away, particularly playing in our home conditions, where we know the conditions really well. I think that definitely brings us closer."
Shane Watson arrived in Adelaide with a steep task ahead of him in order to be available for the Test, and his success in recovering from a calf strain will be monitored closely from the time Australia commence training on Monday morning. "I believe he's been running, so that's positive, there's still three or four days leading up to the Test match, so I'm sure he'll be given every opportunity to prove his fitness to get ready for the second Test," Hussey said. "I did speak to him in Brisbane and he was very keen to try and make sure he's right for this Test match.
"Even batting a long innings can take a bit out of the body, so he's got to make sure he can get through that first, then hopefully offer something with the ball as well."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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