Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide

Verbal battle set to resume in Adelaide

Daniel Brettig

November 18, 2012

Comments: 28 | Text size: A | A

James Pattinson appeals for the wicket of Graeme Smith, Australia v South Africa, first Test, Brisbane, day one, November 9, 2012
James Pattinson tried to get under the skin of Graeme Smith in Brisbane © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: AB de Villiers | Michael Hussey
Series/Tournaments: South Africa tour of Australia

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

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Posted by Meety 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!

Posted by disco_bob 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?

Posted by Meety 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!

Posted by ygkd 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!

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa 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.

Posted by Bobchamp 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 !

Posted by ygkd 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by dinosaurus 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.

Posted by Ozcricketwriter 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.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (November 19, 2012, 0:55 GMT)

While you always have take what the players say in interviews and press conferences with a grain of salt, regardless of what country they're from, I find it interesting to that Ponting said around the time of the first Test that sledging and such was just something that happened in the heat of the moment and was not a tactic per se and yet now it seems like they're specifically saying that it is a tactic, or at least that it's going to be. You can't have it both ways. I don't think that it's a tactic for Pattinson though. He's a good bowler with a big future but, frankly, I think he's just a loud mouth and comes off as rather arrogant on the field.

Posted by MattyP1979 on (November 19, 2012, 0:06 GMT)

Looking forward to seeing SA play with 11 men this time. Can Aus replicate the last tests performance, will SA play as poorly? If either one of these is a no then Aus are in for a tough time. Hope for a great contest and looking forward to the test.

Posted by VillageBlacksmith on (November 18, 2012, 22:37 GMT)

It seems the fans do not like this sledging, and I agree, it is odious, unsportsmanlike and immature, so the players should take note of the fans. More importantly for the game, most children also find it off-putting, mine included, and now prefer to play other sports. TV close ups during of grown men swearing at eachother, pointing and gesticulating aggressively, sometimes even at umpires, leaves most youngsters, and viewers, cold.

Posted by ygkd on (November 18, 2012, 22:15 GMT)

Of course psychology and intimidation are part of the game. When KP last came out to bat a slow-left armer was employed with predictable results. That's psychological intimidation at its best. Inane comments aren't intimidation. Sure, the likes of Ranatunga handed some comments back - but the operative words there are 'handed' and 'back'. SL were just making their way in the international scene and it made sense for them to show they were not there to be intimidated. Anyway, sledging rarely intimidates. People already are or aren't timid in the first place. Sledging therefore won't find anyone out any more than a simple sustained searching look will (without undue aggro). It is all very well to say that opponents of rampant sledging have never played the game so they don't understand it, but that'd be just another over-the-top, less-than-neccessary comment, right? And like most sledging, it simply isn't true. If we stick to the truth, we'd probably not call it much of a sledge at all.

Posted by jb633 on (November 18, 2012, 22:07 GMT)

@sachin_vvsfan, I am English but am massivley supporting Aus in this series. Generally the banter between sets of fans is good natured and I am sure that somewhere deep down Aussie fans will want England to do well against India. It heightens the importance of the ashes if both sides go into the series full of confidence eg 05 Ashes. Personally I will support Aus against most sides, excluding WI and Sri Lanka.

Posted by   on (November 18, 2012, 21:42 GMT)

@sawifan - yours is probably the best comment I've read on here when it comes to sledging. How many people complaining about sledging have every critised Mohammad Ali for his famous "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, George can't hit what George can't see" line. People don't understand sledging, they think its just abuse...

Posted by ygkd on (November 18, 2012, 20:56 GMT)

Sledging in Australia is epidemic, where you can see a 15 or16 year old getting a "clever" comment every ball from adults whose place at the top of their local pecking order is under serious threat. The clever ones will just ignore it or smile back and use it to steel themselves further, which of course means more comments because they're batting for longer. The stupid thing is that it usually only works on those who you really don't need to bother about anyway. So let's not kid ourselves that sledging kids is necessary to toughen them up. As for this national bravado, I wish they'd stop giving me reasons to dislike half the national team - J. Pattinson and D. Warner, for example, being two who I think really do say way too much. It does not make them good role models, like Amla is. The more verbals the Aussies give, the more this Aussie will cheer for Sth Africa. Finally, I would say that @Hammond can't degrade his own national team - they appear to do that well enough for themselves.

Posted by oze13 on (November 18, 2012, 19:04 GMT)

Never played the game? In the 40 odd seasons I've played the game in both England and Australia I've heard every stupid sledge that's ever been said from myself, teammates and opponents alike. Not one of them has had the slightest effect on the result of even one game in those 40 seasons. A complete waste of time. As I said 'empty vessels make the most noise'

Posted by Chris_P on (November 18, 2012, 18:55 GMT)

@sawifan, Well stated, agree 100%. Those speaking about the West Indies obviously never heard the number of times they hurled it when the chips were (not that it happened much but when it did, they hurled it as much as anyone else). It happens in all sports, & again ,sledging is not abusing.

Posted by Behind_the_bowlers_arm on (November 18, 2012, 18:07 GMT)

Like the way DeVilliers uses 2008 as an example. Surely he could quote all the other winning series SA have had against Australia in last 40 years as well? Only joking. Both teams have a bit of a chat so I'm not quite sure why SA want to paint themselves as hard done by by the rude Australians.

Posted by sawifan on (November 18, 2012, 15:21 GMT)

@fireballz... agreed. The media are looking for a story. @Zulu Flow Zion... the WIN's team from the past deployed the same verbal, assaults without a doubt, they just had the talent to keep everyone else quiet about it! Sledging has always and will be a part of cricket. The media encroachment into the sport (as in all facets of life) has increased awareness of it. All teams sledge, and u can be sure the SAF slips were chirping as much as the AUS slips when Warner, Cowan and Quniey were batting. People who think that 'sledging, etc' should be banned from the game, have obviously NEVER played the game. Like all 'professional sports', gamesmanship, psychology and intimidation are parts of the game. If you the best in your country, you can handle it, if you're not, these tactics with find u out! Long live cricket, long live sledging. Ganguly created this attitude in team IND, Ranatunga in SRL and so forth... Sledging is global. Blaming the Aussie is easy, and ill-informed.!

Posted by oze13 on (November 18, 2012, 14:07 GMT)

Empty vessels make the most noise. These inane comments should be banned from the game. A complete waste of time and breath!

Posted by   on (November 18, 2012, 13:20 GMT)

guys its just a psychological thing, calm down.

Posted by Fireballz on (November 18, 2012, 13:08 GMT)

Media is really trying to beef this up. Not sure why they need to as this series already has quite a bit of interest around it...

Posted by KhanMitch on (November 18, 2012, 12:39 GMT)

Can't wait for the game to start, i think the toss will be the key, the team that will bat first will have a serious advantage on a batter's wicket.

Posted by sachin_vvsfan on (November 18, 2012, 12:31 GMT)

@Hammond You are an Aussie fan? Never thought an Aussie fan would cheer for Eng and degrade his own national team.

Posted by   on (November 18, 2012, 12:05 GMT)

the best sides just get on with the job. The champion Windies' teams of the 70's, 80's & 90's never sledged and let their skills do the talking. All this chatter accomplishes is making both sides look like a bunch of arrogant wankers/sore losers. Sure a few words said with a smile on everyone's face is good for the game. But not this genuinely mean-spirited and foul intentioned chatter that both of these sides bring to the field. The 'line' that Brettig alludes to here basically is the umpires condoning unsportsmanlike behavior. Something that cricket has never been about (unless you're Aussie or Saffa - where it has seemed the norm for decades)

Posted by Hammond on (November 18, 2012, 11:11 GMT)

Do it with the bat and ball boys. Make us Aussies proud of your cricketing talent, not your smart mouth.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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