South Africa in Australia 2012-13

Adaptable South Africa face Adelaide adjustment

Firdose Moonda in Adelaide

November 19, 2012

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Morne Morkel trains in Adelaide, November 19, 2012
Morne Morkel and the South African attack will go back to basics after their struggles at the Gabba © Getty Images
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One of the pillars on which South Africa's six-year unbeaten run away from home has been built is adaptability. On the sub-continent, they took on spin with all the footwork and flair needed; in England, they had the quicks to take advantage of seamer-friendly and swinging conditions; and the last time they were in Australia, they had the batsmen to negate the home attack.

This time, they would have said they have all that and more. The current squad has the potential to field a seven-man batting line-up with two in reserve, includes four frontline seam bowlers, each of whom offers something different, a legspinner and a left-arm slow bowler on the bench. The variety led bowling coach Allan Donald to claim it was the best South African attack he had ever seen but they looked a few shades off that in Brisbane.

On a pitch that delivered almost none of what it promised, the much-hyped fast bowlers were reduced to nothing but workhorses. Most of the team, including batsmen Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla and vice-captain AB de Villiers, admitted South Africa expected more from the surface which drove their decision to leave out Imran Tahir and opt for a pace battalion.

Quietly, Australia may have been chuckling that their opposition misread conditions, having not played a Test at the Gabba since before isolation. It was an error that proved even in an age where information is easily accessible thanks to technology, there is still great value in experience. Morne Morkel suggested as much ahead of the second match in Adelaide.

"There is a lot of talk about the ground and the wicket and that sort of thing," Morkel said. "For me, it's important to listen to those sorts of things and to try and learn from them but also to experience those things for myself. As soon as you get caught up in different stories, you could go down the wrong avenue."

No-one in South Africa's current touring party had ever played a Test at the Gabba before and the coach Gary Kirsten said they were scrambling to get "information from as many sources as possible" in the lead-up. The biggest hint they could have taken was England's Ashes score in 2010-11, when they piled on 1 for 517 in the second innings, but it seemed that South Africa chose to focus on the "juice," that Graeme Smith spoke about at the Gabba instead.

They will not want to appear similarly ill-informed in Adelaide, where they also have limited first-hand knowledge to draw on. At least Jacques Kallis and Kirsten have played Test cricket at the venue, when South Africa last appeared there in 2001, and Donald took five wickets there in 1994, but neither Morkel nor Steyn have played a Test there, while Vernon Philander and Imran Tahir have not been to Australia as international cricketers before.

Philander has already battled to some degree. He is wicket-less on this tour, something that a source close to the team has put down to batsmen starting to play him better by leaving him more rather than any glaring fault of his own. Tahir bowled extensively in the tour match and is expected to make a comeback into the starting XI, which will give the quicks some rest and provide another option.

While the team has not been announced, a frontline spinner is expected to play, and it is likely to be Tahir ahead of Robin Peterson. "It will be great to see Imran back, he is a quality guy, quality player and also attacking," Morkel said. "Imran has been bowling well in nets and working hard on his game."

On a track that is known to deteriorate and offer up inconsistent bounce as the match wears on, both Tahir and Morkel could come into play in the latter stages. With that only being hearsay for Morkel for now, he said he wouldn't change much about his approach ahead of the match and would concentrate on "creating more pressure" on the Australian line-up and stick to basics like "starting well in that first 20 balls".

One of South Africa's other goals is to ensure that no more wickets fall off no-balls. They overstepped 23 times in Brisbane and although Morkel was only responsible for two of those, both would have resulted in dismissals.

"It's about having discipline. We've been working on it," Morkel said with shake of the head after being reminded of his no-ball history, most recently at Lord's in August, when Matt Prior was given a reprieve after being caught off a Morkel no-ball. "It's a bitter pill to swallow especially because you know the quality of the batsmen and you don't want to give them another chance. When it happens to me, I try to get on with the job and think that if can get the batsman out once, I can do it twice."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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Posted by   on (November 20, 2012, 15:40 GMT)

@disco_bob ---- point made, but if it was a straight choice between Thami Tsokilile (wicketkeeper / batsman) and AB de Villiers (batsman / wicketkeeper) that you would go for Thami? I couldn't do that. Its all a question of taking a calculated risk...

Posted by Unomaas on (November 20, 2012, 10:50 GMT)

The Saffa Gabba bowling performance highlighted the need for a holding/defensive bowler.Steyn is our premium strike bowler, Morkel is too erratic, Tahir is an attacking leggie trying to learn how to bowl defensively, Kleinveldt is a debutant trying to to impress and Philander is on a wicket taking taking frenzy that he doesn't want to end. All these bowlers are either erratic or have attack on their mind. If anyone is gonna block up an end, you feel it has to be Philander or Kallis as I believe that they have the best control. Kallis can't sustain drawn out bowling spells so it will have to be Philander. But that means Philander will have to change his mindset. He should go have a talk with Shaun Pollock because Alan Donald only understands attack and bowling the other guy's head off! We need to build pressure. The aussies can talk as much as they want but they have bigger expectations on their shoulders than the saffa's. We must exploit this and build pressure!

Posted by   on (November 20, 2012, 6:21 GMT)

@ Pappu_bhai: Useless pitches eh? Before you start re-writing history based upon last week´s test in Brisbane, here´s a stat for you: since 1988 when the WI were the last team to win at the Gabba, there have been 18 wins (72%) in the proceeding 25 tests, of which there were 6 wins by an innings (33% of those wins).

When it comes to Adelaide, there´s been 24 test (none in 1988) and it gets better. Whilst there have been 6 draws, 3 of those were in 89, 90 & 91 - with 4 wins by an innings and visiting teams being victorious also on 4 occasions.

So take your negativity elsewhere!

Posted by kensohatter on (November 20, 2012, 2:08 GMT)

I too would take a runscoring option at 7 rather than a specialised keeper. Prior, Dhoni and Devillers are NOT world class keepers but they do a good enough job and offer more with the bat. We will never see a master gloveman like Ian Healy again simply because its a liability to carry a batsman. The only time I can see a specialist gloveman included would be on a absolute dustbowl when there is a guy like warne or murali in the team then maybe you think ok this gloveman is probably worth an extra catch or stumping or saving 30runs in byes.

Posted by disco_bob on (November 20, 2012, 1:39 GMT)

@Newlandsfaithful "...you need a batsman / wicketkeeper rather than a wicketkeeper / batsman..." surely you jest? A single bad piece of wicketkeeping and you gift the opposition and extra batsman.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2012, 18:44 GMT)

I think the reason they are ignoring Quinton other than his age is his "lack of form" in the one day game. Unfortunately he is playing just like Levy, trying to hit almost every ball to the boundary. If he can learn to be patient he could become a great international batsman, never mind the keeping. Maybe they didn't notice the 194 he scored in his 2nd last FC game? He is a keeper in the Gilchrist mode and it will be a tragedy if he doesn't play international cricket soon.

Has anyone else noticed Heino Kuhn's recent form? Add to that his FC average of 46 and 3.2 dismissals per game and you have a pretty good keeper / batsman.

One player under 30 and another under 20 who are WAY better than Thami....

Posted by   on (November 19, 2012, 16:20 GMT)

Nick Armstrong, I am in agreement with George Matt - paint the full picture before ripping into Bouch. Besides the batting, his glovework is definitely missed, and while AB is filling the gap now, I'm doubtful that he has the quick hands for (leg side) stumpings or the game reading abilities that Bouch has.

Make no mistake, it's tough keeping and being a top order batsman - which is why Gilly was a truly remarkable player - but I think we can all agree that AB's class will shine at some point, it's only a matter of time as he settles, this is only his 2nd Test series as gloveman.

Posted by electric_loco_WAP4 on (November 19, 2012, 13:47 GMT)

@Pappu_bhai- Aus is mighty scared of the SA pace battery ... the same bowlers who were clueless and ground to the dirt just last week.. If I am right Aus had taken the SA bowlers for 500 odd runs with out a wicket ...not counting the run out... I am sure the SA bowlers wished for it green and bounce off quick and awkwardly all of a sudden .. might have had a wicket or 2 for 500 runs for their effort. The SA batsmen didn't really enjoy the Aus pacemen steaming in on a last day pitch either..I don't to tell what happens when Ponting gets in and gets going....and he is due!! . SA have a few more issues than the pitch to ponder I'm sure....

Posted by Selassie-I on (November 19, 2012, 13:29 GMT)

@ facebook on (November 19 2012, 10:42 AM GMT) well the Aussies are in real trouble then. Thir no. 3 can't even average anywhere near 40 in 1st class, their wicket keeper only just does, maybe Wade should be moved down the order to 3 and Quiney should be coming in at 7?

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (November 19, 2012, 12:17 GMT)

Oh and regarding Boucher. Yes he was a fighter and a team man, but the stats dont lie, in his last 3-4 years of Test cricket his batting was poor when comparing to other top test teams keepers. I think in the modern game the keeper needs to have an average of +35 at least these days.

Posted by venkatr_11 on (November 19, 2012, 11:56 GMT)

I would expect Tahir to play every time SA take the field. A wrist spinner is an asset on any wicket and to even think of playing Rob.P ahead of Tahir is a joke. No offense about Rob.P's ability, but test matches are a different cup of tea and an attacking spinner always gives you the edge. If you ask the Aussies whose retirement affected them the most, the obvious answer would be Warne and not Mcgrath or Hayden or even Gilly. The problem with Tahir has been that he has tried too many things and is a little impatient. The SA management have tried to help him by explaining his role and teaching him to be patient, but I guess there should be a balance between both and they shouldn't curtail his aggressive nature. Nothing is as exciting in test cricket than watching a leggie rip out the opposition.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2012, 11:34 GMT)

@nick armstrong...this has to be one of the most ridiculous comments ever...just because boucher was out of form in the last year of his career,doesnt mean that he was useless...he was a complete team man and saved southafrica many times...why go far,in the same series against india,you are talking about, boucher scored a half century in 3rd test when southafrica was 130-6 and shared a series saving stand with kallis...southafrica looked dead before boucher came...i hope you would do well to remember this

Posted by Pappu_bhai on (November 19, 2012, 11:32 GMT)

Useless Pitches is Aus will always cause draws.Another draw in the card.Aus is feared of SAF Pace battery and will make batting paradise here.Its sure.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2012, 10:42 GMT)

Sharidas - don't for one moment think Boucher was an assett with the bat - he was a batting liability - as borne out by his pathetic Test average of only 30. Matt Prior; MS Dhoni; Brad Haddin et al - all have MUCH better Test averages than Boucher... Ditto Adam Gilchrist at 48+

With Boucher in the team - our batting ended at 6.. Adam Gilchrist and Australia re-moulded the "template" in order to dominate world Test cricket - you need 7 top-order batsmen - including your keeper/batsman - who should have an average of 40+.. Gilly was over 50 most of his career - only dropping to 48 right at the end...

India and Australia in SA recently - proved the value of a keeper/batsman who can bat - where, on both occasions - the Proteas squandered a 1-0 series lead to 1-1. BOTH times - Boucher failed with the bat in both innings - where MS Dhoni and Brad Haddin both played crucial innings for India and Aussie respectively - net result - Test lost for South Africa...

Boucher was a myth.

Posted by heathrf1974 on (November 19, 2012, 10:31 GMT)

I agree sharidas. Test cricket is for specialists (including all-rounders), not part-timers.

Posted by RayanSharif on (November 19, 2012, 9:47 GMT)

SA should change their mindset of not playing very young players at the top level. I was surprised to see Quinton di Kock's first class average! His average is 66+, certainly he would play should he born in Australia. He should take over Bouch's gloves. Come on SA, you have been too rigid. Rookies can be aces!!

Posted by Newlandsfaithful on (November 19, 2012, 9:45 GMT)

I don't think SA should go with Thami simply because he's not up to grade with the bat. Batsmen win matches, not brilliant wicketkeepers. Can anyone remember a wicketkeeper getting a man of the match award for his glove work in any format of the game? So really you need a batsman / wicketkeeper rather than a wicketkeeper / batsman. If it's all a bit too draining on AB, why not think out the box? Give someone else a session to wear the gloves so AB can have a bit of a rest. Its not as crazy as it sounds.

Posted by sharidas on (November 19, 2012, 7:39 GMT)

South Africa, with the absence of Mark Boucher, certainly feels that they are one batsman short, so De Villiers has been slotted into that position. But I feel, that the keeper's job has affected his batting. Even though Thami Tsolekile is not up to it with the bat, it will be better to use him solely for that job. Duminy's absence is quite a handicap for SA, as he was in good form with the bat and was a good bowler as well.

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