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November 21, 2012
Australia and South Africa don't do draws. But for a Saturday completely lost to rain, that trend may well have continued at the Gabba. Instead, the teams have headed to Adelaide still locked at 0-0, although Australia took more positives from the Brisbane Test. After a disappointing first day on which their bowlers took only two wickets, they fought back to be in the prime position on the final day, but time ran out for them to manufacture a result. All the same, they will head in to the second Test knowing that Ed Cowan has proven himself a Test-quality opener, Michael Clarke's monumental 2012 has shown no signs of ending early, Michael Hussey has broken a seven-year century drought against South Africa, and most of the bowlers found form as the Gabba Test played out. David Warner remains a slight concern at the top of the order but in the main things are simmering away nicely in the Australian setup.
For South Africa, there wasn't much to like about the Gabba Test apart from the continued brilliance of Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis. Alviro Petersen showed why he should not be underestimated on the first day with 64, but that was about it. Questions remain around whether Jacques Rudolph offers enough value; since his return to the side last November he has played 12 Tests for one century. But more than the batting it was South Africa's bowling that left much to be desired at the Gabba. Perhaps they expected the pitch, by reputation a seamer but in reality a true surface, to do the work for them. Whatever the case, that they allowed 487 runs to pass between bowlers' wickets - Cowan's run-out was the only breakthrough on the fourth day - was a massive problem. Vernon Philander lacked impact, Dale Steyn showed only glimpses of his best and Morne Morkel needs to curb his habit of over-stepping on crucial deliveries. Not that any of these issues concerned the coach Gary Kirsten enough to encourage him to spend every day working with the squad between Tests; instead he flew home for a whistle-stop trip to see his wife and children.
At Adelaide Oval, the teams will again be greeted by a good batting surface. Life won't be easy for the fast men early on but the pitch will wear and provide some uneven bounce and help for the spinners later on. During the 1980s the venue had the reputation of being a ground where draws were almost inevitable but that is no longer a fair assessment, and only three of the past 20 Adelaide Tests have failed to find a winner. If that trend continues this year, whichever team comes out on top cannot lose the series. And if it's South Africa, the No.1 ranking will be out of Australia's reach.
Form guide(Most recent first)
In the spotlight
South Africa's batsmen tried to belt Nathan Lyon out of the attack at the Gabba but he kept his nerve, continued to flight the ball and picked up two wickets in each innings, as well as having a skied catch put down off his bowling. A 25-over spell on the third day helped Lyon get back into his rhythm after some undemanding Sheffield Shield work in the lead-up, and at his home venue of Adelaide Oval, where he took five wickets against India last summer, he will be a key man as the pitch deteriorates. With Shane Watson unable to bowl even if he does play, Lyon will again be asked to bowl some long spells to give the fast men some rest.
Vernon Philander had so much success in his first ten Test matches that it was a major surprise that he went wicketless at the Gabba, having also failed to claim a victim the tour match in Sydney. At times in Brisbane the Australians found it a little too easy to leave Philander's deliveries alone and on a pitch like Adelaide, which won't offer the bowlers much apart from perhaps some variable bounce as the game wears on, he will need to make the batsmen play more often.
Australia are unchanged from Brisbane, with Shane Watson's bid to play as a batsman ending predictably on match eve. Ben Hilfenhaus retains his spot ahead of Mitchell Starc, and Rob Quiney has another Test to prove himself at No. 3.
Australia 1 Ed Cowan, 2 David Warner, 3 Rob Quiney, 4 Ricky Ponting, 5 Michael Clarke (capt), 6 Michael Hussey, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Peter Siddle, 9 James Pattinson, 10 Ben Hilfenhaus, 11 Nathan Lyon.
JP Duminy's injury meant South Africa had to make at least one change from the Gabba side and it has been confirmed that Faf du Plessis will make his debut in Adelaide. Imran Tahir has also been named and will replace Rory Kleinveldt in the starting XI.
South Africa 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 Jacques Rudolph, 7 Faf du Plessis, 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Imran Tahir.
Pitch and conditions
Like the Gabba, the Adelaide Oval surface should provide plenty of runs early in the match, but it is also likely to deteriorate as the game wears on, which will bring the spinners into play. The forecast for the duration of the match is hot and sunny.
Stats and trivia
"I think the players can take confidence from the way we performed and improved in that Test match, but it doesn't guarantee much. Like words, it doesn't really matter what you say it's what you do and we need to have that attitude and make sure come tomorrow we're 100% ready for that first delivery whether we're batting or bowling."
"The changeroom attendant said the one thing you can expect is the same Adelaide wicket. It will probably get drier as the game goes on. It's got a good grass covering. The field is looking really good. The square is probably the greenest I have seen it in a long time."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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