Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide November 18, 2012

Verbal battle set to resume in Adelaide


Almost as inevitable as the sight of Michael Clarke and Graeme Smith walking out for the toss at Adelaide Oval on Thursday will be the sound of their two sides resuming a noisy and pungent on-field dialogue from the moment the first ball is bowled.

Both camps expect the verbal battle to return in the second Test, particularly after a lively and even ill-tempered final afternoon in Brisbane passed without either the umpires Billy Bowden and Asad Rauf or the match referee Ranjan Madugalle raising a formal charge against either side. The umpires did, though, have a cautionary word to the bowlers at various points of the five days. This has effectively defined a generous line for the players' on-field aggression, leaving Adelaide to witness more jousting from Thursday.

"It's part of the game, once you get out in the middle and emotions start to rise, it's good for the game to see a bit of competitive spirit out there between the two teams," Michael Hussey said. "A lot of the players in the past have used it as a mental battle against batsmen and it's probably worked in the past as well.

"Whether it works on these South African batsmen I don't know. They've shown they've been a great team for a period of time now, they don't get to No. 1 in the world without enduring these sorts of things before. But once you get over that white line, competitive spirit between bat and ball starts, and there's always going to be things that are said, but as long as it doesn't go too far and players [don't] cross the line I think it's fine."

Clarke spoke before the series about "pushing the line" of legal aggression in this series, whether it was in terms of short-pitched bowling or a pointed choice of words. Australia's players make no secret of their use of verbal aggression towards the opposition as a way of firing themselves up, something witnessed quite pointedly earlier this year during the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka when the ears of the Irish among others were left ringing by fighting words from the mouths of Shane Watson and David Warner in particular.

In Brisbane it was James Pattinson who vented his distaste for batsmen most freely, with Smith copping plenty on the final afternoon after he pulled away from one delivery as the bowler entered his delivery stride. Ultimately Pattinson, who won the duel, delivered a send-off to South Africa's captain that might have forced Madugalle to act had it been even a fraction more prolonged.

Smith had played the role of instigator earlier in the match, confronting Ed Cowan with an attempt to disturb the opener's concentration as he prepared to face up to the first over of the fourth day's play. Smith's words were brushed aside by Cowan, but provided further proof that Australia and South Africa are most comfortable when flinging a little mud each other's way in pursuit of victory.

Nevertheless, AB de Villiers noted that Australia's bluster proved unsuccessful in the 2008-09 series in Australia, a useful reminder of the fact that sharp words can quickly appear hollow if not backed up by sharper deeds.

"They thought so in 2008 as well and it didn't really happen that way, so hopefully we can prove them wrong again," de Villiers said of the contention that Australia considered sledging to be a way to get into South African heads.

"There's always a bit of chat around. We're talking about two very good teams who want to win the game. You do whatever you can to get a few wickets when the pressure is on. Whatever you can do to get an edge over the opposition, you will do it."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on November 20, 2012, 7:03 GMT

    @ygkd on (November 19 2012, 20:49 PM GMT) - body language can be far more disturbing than the spoken word. A bowler coming through an extra long follow through or pegging a ball to the keeper barely missing the batsmen. Regarding High Definition - what about 3D TV???? @ TommytuckerSaffa on (November 19 2012, 13:26 PM GMT) - to be fair, I think the Poms don't mind a bit of a chat. However, they should keep their Jelly Beans too themselves!

  • disco on November 19, 2012, 23:53 GMT

    Fact is that without gems such as "put a mars bar on a good length" and others that fill lists of 'best cricketing sledges of all time', the game would be the poorer for it.

    @oze13, if it's never had an effect in your opinion what's the problem?

  • Andrew on November 19, 2012, 23:26 GMT

    I think the Umpires are a bit more leniant when it comes to "verbal clashes" between Saffas, Ozzys & Poms as we do it in all our sporting encounters across all codes (throw in NZ as well too). I think sledging becomes awkward when it is Anglo v Indo-asian for cultural reasons. @sawifan - very true re: WIndies, people forget about Ambrose having to be dragged away from Steve Waugh, I also remmeber another incident between these two when Waugh hit Curtly for 3 straight boundaries, Curtly was getting increasingly chatty - had the last laugh though when he got Waugh out. The WIndies use to have about 8 players in the slips chanting for Marshall to KILL the batsmen! What was even more disconcerting was the laughter that would generate. Great players - not complete angels!

  • Philip on November 19, 2012, 20:49 GMT

    Perhaps we should focus on the body language instead. I find some body language exhibited on the field offensive. I didn't like some things that happened in the '70s - the Lillee/Miandad incident for example. I must be getting older, however, because I find a lot more irritating littler incidents now. Or is it just the modern coverage? Heaven help us when it's all in high definition! This is the point that needs to be made. The coverage of the game now has reached a point, coupled with the screen sizes around today, where the tea-pot stances of a certain English all-rounder can look both massive and childish at the same time, the glaring of a certain Australian batsman and the 'I-deserve-better' look of a certain player who spends a whole innings in one fielding position are delivered to your viewing in all their intimate detail - and I don't even have a full-size telly. The better the coverage and the bigger the screens, the more the need for greater decorum - for kids are watching!

  • greig on November 19, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    Aussies and Saffas have been giving each other verbals for years - nothing new, its only the weaker teams like India, England, etc that falter under a few words here and there.

  • Bob on November 19, 2012, 13:22 GMT

    Totally agree with oze13... Played top level club cricket for 14 years, some sledging on occasions was so funny that it did actually make us as batsmen more relaxed, nothing like a good laugh at the opposition. I too believe that it is a sign of the lack of an IQ !

  • Philip on November 19, 2012, 7:21 GMT

    Sledging has been rife in Australia for years. Kids get subjected to it by adults because they feel their dominance threatened or because they know they can get away with it. I would like the national team to be better role models (some players are okay, some aren't). That doesn't mean taking a backward step on the field, but does mean toning down the verbal garbage, the theatrics and the tantrums - not that Australia is alone in producing such behaviour. Other countries have players with similar tendencies. It is worth noting, by contrast however, the grace that a Hashim Amla or a Kumar Sangakkara bring to the game, or Adam Gilchrist did. It wasn't like their games suffer/ed for a lack of such nonsense.

  • Marcio on November 19, 2012, 5:00 GMT

    Many of the media stories i am reading at the moment are deliberately misquoting players out of context, and trying to stir people up. One article i read in the West Australian started by talking about sledging, then quoted M Hussey as saying "We will continue, it's just part of the game." In fact Hussey was talking about being aggressive in the field, not "sledging". I have seen and read so many distortions this lately that I am getting sick of it. The david warner quote was the classic case - mundane comments about batsmen needing to concentrate on the ball twisted into looking like a verbal attack on the opposition. And of course, many posters here are quick to condemn and project anger, or just not bright enough to see media manipulation when they encounter it. It would help if honest posts like this actually got published here once in a while.

  • John on November 19, 2012, 4:13 GMT

    All this sledging of the Aussie team traces back to Tony Greig's commentary style and phantom feud with the Phantom (Bill Lawry) on the Channel 9 Australian cricket coverage. It is carried on in a quasi racial vilification style here and elsewhere.

  • Adrian on November 19, 2012, 1:38 GMT

    As long as Pattinson and Starc both play, Australia are in with a chance. They are the two best bowlers in the country and need to play in every test. Who joins them is up for debate but those two have to play. Not sure why Quiney is still in the side, and especially confusing is that he is apparently listed to outst David Warner. I guess he scored 9 while Warner managed just 4; but Warner is in much better form overall and has a much better record. Hopefully Watson plays, Quiney is on the sidelines and that is the end of that. As for South Africa, surely Quinton de Kock should be playing as their wicket keeper! I don't understand why he is having to wait for his chance. This other fellow they have as backup is nowhere near as good - or as young. I feel that Australia's squad is very wrong but it doesn't matter what I say, the selectors won't listen to me. Should be a close contest in the 2nd test that could go either way.

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