Stephen Gelb January 1, 2009

How South Africa became Australia

Fast scoring in the first three innings now means there’s lots of time left in the game for the chase
19



It’s been an incredible couple of weeks and I had my little gloat after Day 3, Duminy Day, in Melbourne. Some more serious reflection is in order.

But before that, let me clarify. In saying that South Africa is the new Australia, I wasn’t arguing that SA are the new number one (though they may be in a few days). I was simply enjoying the role reversal which has been especially surprising and enjoyable over here on the Indian Ocean’s west. For South Africa to be organised, skilful and confident while the other lot were chaotic, disunited, choking, and generally blowing it – that was really a change. Usually it’s us who carry the latter labels. (As always, I’m talking about more than cricket only - see Olympics, football - or even only sport - see electricity, crime-fighting, AIDS, Zimbabwe…. ) For years, Australia have been organised, machine-like, and confident to the point of arrogance. But suddenly, we’ve swapped hats and black is the new white.

Anyway, serious point one. After closing out the Perth run-chase, AB de Villiers said he never doubted SA would make it. His faith may be religion-based, but it’s also true that large totals don’t carry the intimidation they used to. As if to prove this, Bangladesh made 413 today chasing 521 against Sri Lanka, slotting in at 11 on the all-time highest 4th innings scores. If we look at the top 20 on that list (excluding the 654/5 in the Timeless Test), seven were in the past 18 months, and another three since 2002. This has something to do with ODIs, but in fact its cause is the incredible leap in overall run-rates in Tests. This is the lasting legacy of the now-ended Taylor/Waugh/Ponting Mark I era of Aussie dominance. ODIs had been played for more than two decades before Test run-rates went up, after all (and run-rates rose before T20s were on the scene). One of the keys to successful chases in Chennai and Perth was the lack of time pressure so that batsmen could play ‘normal cricket’. Fast scoring in the first three innings now means there’s lots of time left in the game for the chase. Of course, the pace of Sehwag, and to a lesser extent Smith, made it easier for those following, but isn’t their approach itself founded on the Taylor-and-after Aussies? Wasn’t Michael Slater the pioneer here?

Serious point two: the English contribution to SA’s victory. As far as I can tell, only one journalist has noted this - well done, Simon Briggs in the Telegraph. Briggs focussed on Jeremy Snape, SA team psychologist and Professor of the Dark Art of transference of choking to the other team. Even more important in my guesstimation has been Duncan Fletcher, Strategist of the Year 2005 and the only person in SA’s dressing room who had actually been there and done that when it came to beating Australia. When Jacques Kallis batted so much better in Perth to emerge from a slump of Dravidian proportions, I suspected Fletcher’s hand at work. Especially when Kallis and AB smashed 48 off 64 balls on the evening of Day 4, which for me was the key passage of the chase. And when Graeme Smith suddenly became a brilliant tactician in the field at Melbourne, I had no doubt at all that the ideas originated behind Fletcher’s permanently attached Raybans. I know Fletcher isn’t English, but he is an English coach, and it’s nice to get something back from the English after all the players we’ve given them over the years.

But serious point three: credit where credit is due. I am not a big admirer of Smith’s tactical nous, and I agree fully with Samir about Mickey Arthur’s. But one cannot doubt Smith’s leadership abilities and his courage. And one must respect Arthur for bringing Fletcher and Snape - people with greater expertise than his own - into his management team. It’s the mark of a good leader to take advice from experts, and to bring in someone like Fletcher who could conceivably take your job needs courage and a sense of security. In fact, Arthur and Smith’s main achievement may have been to create a climate in which SA cricket has overcome its collective insecurities, something which not even the late and great Bob Woolmer was able to do.

Now if the Cricinfo blogmeister will indulge me with a few hundred words more, I’d like to pose the question as to who is now No. 1 in the world - India or South Africa? Of course they drew their last series back in April, but both have gotten better since then. I’d compare the teams as follows. Opening batsmen – pretty much even between Sehwag and Smith, and between Gambhir and McKenzie, perhaps Gambhir by a nose after McKenzie’s mini-slump in Australia. In the middle order, the two rocks – Kallis and Dravid – cancel each other out, even to their matching slumps. On the left-handers, I’d give it to Prince/Duminy over Yuvraj (or late-career Ganguly for that matter), but de Villiers and Amla can’t be expected to match Tendulkar and Laxman, not at this stage of their respective careers (though 10 or 12 years from now it could be a pretty tight contest). The wicketkeepers are also pretty even, Dhoni the better batsman but Boucher the far more experienced gloveman. The tail must be a toss-up, given Harbahjan’s consistency with the bat and SA’s recent heroics. Turning to the attack, South Africa surely have the better overall pace attack: for all the excellence of Zaheer and Sharma, India’s third seamer is either absent or much weaker, whereas Steyn and Ntini are followed by Morkel and the bonus of Kallis. But it’s no contest in the spin department, though Harris remains highly underrated. So far, India has a slight advantage due to Tendulkar and Laxman. But notwithstanding my comments above on Smith and Arthur, I think India’s leadership – Dhoni and Kirsten – clinches it for them. What a pity these two rising powers aren’t scheduled to play each other until February 2010!

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dames on January 21, 2009, 11:57 GMT

    To the wally that stated that without Dale we woul not be much of a team. Just a quick note, you have batting and you have bowling, the bowlers take wickets and the batsman scores runs! Did Smith, Amla, Duminy, kallis, AB and to a smaller degree Boucher all play a part to helping us beat Australia, UM yes I think so, so your statement that without Dale we are nothing is rubbish, he is a class act no doubt, but the talent pool within the SA side springs much further than just him. JP Duminy in his debut test serious, against none other than Australia blerw them away, he was a league above wat they had to offer him! Just look at Biff's (Smith) stats this year, the man is a performer, maybe not the most attractive batsman, but stats dont lie, the future of SA cricket has a lot to look foward to! Somer people are so anti South Africa and anti smith, that it is actually hilarious, when the team and Smithy under perform, you guys quick to chirp, but when they perform, its all a fluke! Geta life

  • Yash on January 8, 2009, 17:16 GMT

    I Personally cannot wait for the sa-india test series next year. Altough SA and India have both beaten The Aussies , Sa's victory was achieved in Australia. The thing that is missing from Sa's point of view is a world class spinner (having said that, Harris has been the most consistant Sa spinner in years.) India need a world class 1st change seamer

  • SAinOZ on January 5, 2009, 23:39 GMT

    Let's not get carried away - it only takes a few rash strokes, an ill-judged run, the odd bad decision, and things get turned around very quickly. SA seems set to lose the 3rd test, which is OK, even for me as a South African. It's OK because it will remind all of us, players included, that whoever sits on top of the pile at any given time is only slightly better than those who sit just below. And it's OK because it will remind the Proteas that they can't be complacent when Aus tours SA next month. And of course, it's OK because after all, we won the series, and no-one can take that away from us.

  • derrida derider on January 5, 2009, 4:37 GMT

    Having watched both SA and India beat us (the Aussies), I think SA the better team all round. The gap in fielding standards alone is huge - SA are the only team who match Australian standards of ground fielding.

    It's true with the loss of some great players Ausralia is now back to the field and, yes, this is good for world cricket (if painful for us). But our fall from grace has been exaggerated by an horrific injury run along with some strange selections. A little time will correct these. You'd be most unwise to count us out for the Ashes series, for instance.

  • Danny on January 4, 2009, 23:43 GMT

    Its true that Australia have lost a few matches recently that could've, maybe should've, been won. However, when Lee and Clark get back from surgery, and if Lee can revive his form from the 2007/2008 season, the pace attack would consist of the ever-consistent Clark, a hopefully fired-up Lee and a fast-improving Johnson. If Krejza can improve his defensive game, thats not a bad attack at all.

  • Allen Johnston on January 4, 2009, 23:40 GMT

    Are Sri Lanka about to become Australia?

    At the moment South Africa and Australia are the teams battling it out for the no. 1 spot in test cricket. There has also been mention of India in this thread. Has everyone been ignoring the real pretender to Australia's throne?

    Sri Lanka already have a side with a strong batting line-up, and the best bowler in the world in Murali. Now they also have Ajantha Mendis. In 25 first class matches Mendis has taken 147 wickets at an average of 15! He also has a list A bowling average of 11! These are truely ridiculous, frightening statistics.

    With the prospect of Murali and Mendis ripping through battling line-ups together, are Sri Lanka about to become the team to dominate test cricket for the next few years?

  • west indian on January 4, 2009, 22:58 GMT

    i think that australians have to realise that they cannot look back at the days when they had warne and mcgrath because its not like they are going to find bowlers like these anytime soon. just look at the windies they r still struggling to rebuild from their lost of great players.on the upside for the aussies i dont think that their resurrection would take as long as west indies once they do not have imcompetent selectors like us

  • AJAX on January 4, 2009, 17:35 GMT

    How South Africa Became Australia

    i) Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath retired ii) Hussey, Hayden and Lee went out of form iii) South Africa stayed professional, Australia didn't

    Fixed.

  • soham on January 3, 2009, 18:02 GMT

    I find it a nicely written article. I also think age is on SA' s side, as Dravid and SRT would retire soon. And call me a Sourav fan or whatever, there is no way Prince/JP was ever comparable to Sourav, except for the 2 rear period when he was really pathetic.

  • NS on January 3, 2009, 12:34 GMT

    Without Dale Steyn SA will not be the team which it is today. Morkel has not taken wickets by the bucketful and Nitini, Smith, Kallis etc has been with SA since dinosaurs. Take Dale Steyn out of the equation and SA is not No.1. It is too dependent on him. And mind you SA has beat an over-30 Aussie side with bowlers who would not be a part of any other side. India did beat an Aussie side with Shane Warne, McGrath, Gillespie etc. SA is no.1, not because of their supremacy but because Aussies have come down badly. This SA team will lose if Warne is back. That's the bottomline. They just cannot play quality spin.

  • Dames on January 21, 2009, 11:57 GMT

    To the wally that stated that without Dale we woul not be much of a team. Just a quick note, you have batting and you have bowling, the bowlers take wickets and the batsman scores runs! Did Smith, Amla, Duminy, kallis, AB and to a smaller degree Boucher all play a part to helping us beat Australia, UM yes I think so, so your statement that without Dale we are nothing is rubbish, he is a class act no doubt, but the talent pool within the SA side springs much further than just him. JP Duminy in his debut test serious, against none other than Australia blerw them away, he was a league above wat they had to offer him! Just look at Biff's (Smith) stats this year, the man is a performer, maybe not the most attractive batsman, but stats dont lie, the future of SA cricket has a lot to look foward to! Somer people are so anti South Africa and anti smith, that it is actually hilarious, when the team and Smithy under perform, you guys quick to chirp, but when they perform, its all a fluke! Geta life

  • Yash on January 8, 2009, 17:16 GMT

    I Personally cannot wait for the sa-india test series next year. Altough SA and India have both beaten The Aussies , Sa's victory was achieved in Australia. The thing that is missing from Sa's point of view is a world class spinner (having said that, Harris has been the most consistant Sa spinner in years.) India need a world class 1st change seamer

  • SAinOZ on January 5, 2009, 23:39 GMT

    Let's not get carried away - it only takes a few rash strokes, an ill-judged run, the odd bad decision, and things get turned around very quickly. SA seems set to lose the 3rd test, which is OK, even for me as a South African. It's OK because it will remind all of us, players included, that whoever sits on top of the pile at any given time is only slightly better than those who sit just below. And it's OK because it will remind the Proteas that they can't be complacent when Aus tours SA next month. And of course, it's OK because after all, we won the series, and no-one can take that away from us.

  • derrida derider on January 5, 2009, 4:37 GMT

    Having watched both SA and India beat us (the Aussies), I think SA the better team all round. The gap in fielding standards alone is huge - SA are the only team who match Australian standards of ground fielding.

    It's true with the loss of some great players Ausralia is now back to the field and, yes, this is good for world cricket (if painful for us). But our fall from grace has been exaggerated by an horrific injury run along with some strange selections. A little time will correct these. You'd be most unwise to count us out for the Ashes series, for instance.

  • Danny on January 4, 2009, 23:43 GMT

    Its true that Australia have lost a few matches recently that could've, maybe should've, been won. However, when Lee and Clark get back from surgery, and if Lee can revive his form from the 2007/2008 season, the pace attack would consist of the ever-consistent Clark, a hopefully fired-up Lee and a fast-improving Johnson. If Krejza can improve his defensive game, thats not a bad attack at all.

  • Allen Johnston on January 4, 2009, 23:40 GMT

    Are Sri Lanka about to become Australia?

    At the moment South Africa and Australia are the teams battling it out for the no. 1 spot in test cricket. There has also been mention of India in this thread. Has everyone been ignoring the real pretender to Australia's throne?

    Sri Lanka already have a side with a strong batting line-up, and the best bowler in the world in Murali. Now they also have Ajantha Mendis. In 25 first class matches Mendis has taken 147 wickets at an average of 15! He also has a list A bowling average of 11! These are truely ridiculous, frightening statistics.

    With the prospect of Murali and Mendis ripping through battling line-ups together, are Sri Lanka about to become the team to dominate test cricket for the next few years?

  • west indian on January 4, 2009, 22:58 GMT

    i think that australians have to realise that they cannot look back at the days when they had warne and mcgrath because its not like they are going to find bowlers like these anytime soon. just look at the windies they r still struggling to rebuild from their lost of great players.on the upside for the aussies i dont think that their resurrection would take as long as west indies once they do not have imcompetent selectors like us

  • AJAX on January 4, 2009, 17:35 GMT

    How South Africa Became Australia

    i) Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath retired ii) Hussey, Hayden and Lee went out of form iii) South Africa stayed professional, Australia didn't

    Fixed.

  • soham on January 3, 2009, 18:02 GMT

    I find it a nicely written article. I also think age is on SA' s side, as Dravid and SRT would retire soon. And call me a Sourav fan or whatever, there is no way Prince/JP was ever comparable to Sourav, except for the 2 rear period when he was really pathetic.

  • NS on January 3, 2009, 12:34 GMT

    Without Dale Steyn SA will not be the team which it is today. Morkel has not taken wickets by the bucketful and Nitini, Smith, Kallis etc has been with SA since dinosaurs. Take Dale Steyn out of the equation and SA is not No.1. It is too dependent on him. And mind you SA has beat an over-30 Aussie side with bowlers who would not be a part of any other side. India did beat an Aussie side with Shane Warne, McGrath, Gillespie etc. SA is no.1, not because of their supremacy but because Aussies have come down badly. This SA team will lose if Warne is back. That's the bottomline. They just cannot play quality spin.

  • philvic on January 2, 2009, 13:13 GMT

    You cannot devalue South Africa's and India's achievements by saying that Australia is now weak. No doubt they are the poorer for losing Warne (not so much the others), but the team they are putting out is the best that they have, same as did South Africa and India during the painful years of Aussie dominance. I personally hope we wont see one team being so dominant again for a long time. All we need now is a West Indian resurgence and we could have a decade of fantastic Test cricket.

  • GS van Zyl on January 2, 2009, 8:47 GMT

    South Africa suffered some of their most humiliating and demoralising defeats at the hands of the Aussies since re-admission. For this reason I am ecstatic about the series win. It was long in coming and well deserved.

    But lets be honest about the situation, it was the perfect storm.

    The Aussies are the weakest they have been in the last two decades, and had the misfortune of facing a settled South African side with four of the ten most prolific batsmen of 2008 and Dale Steyn. Contributing to all of this was the fact that Smith finally matured and that his captaincy was almost flawless. Somehow South Africa also managed to develop the total belief in themselves that was always Australia's trademark.

    In South Africa most of us realise that it would be arrogant in the extreme to think that we are the top cricketing country in the world. But let’s give credit where it is due - Australia gave the opening and a prepared South Africa pounced on the opportunity. But they will be back

  • Allen Johnston on January 2, 2009, 5:25 GMT

    One must be careful of over-analysing why Australia has lost 2 test matches at home, one of which included a highly improbable run chase!

    Australia's main problem at the moment is simply the decline in their bowling staff. Of the bowlers who played in the first 2 tests vs SA, Lee has a 1st class avg. of 28, Johnson 29, Siddle 29, Symonds 36; and their spinners Krejza and Hauritz, 49 and 47 respectively. Johnson is the only one with a test avg. of under 30 at 27. Their best bowler in recent times, Stuart Clark, with a test avg. of 23, was sorely missed.

    Compare this to the days when Australia had McGrath, with had a 1st class avg. of 21, and Warne, with an avg. of 26. One should not under-estimate the part these two players played in Australia's dominance.

    Batting wise, Australia is still blessed with a dearth of superb batsmen, many of whom aren't even in the team, and it is highly likely that the recent reports of the death of Austrlian cricket have been greatly exaggerated!

  • Chipmunk on January 2, 2009, 4:45 GMT

    Although it is clear that Australia are no longer no1 in test in anything but the ratings, and that will change if the loose in Sydney, everyone is too caught up in the tag of number 1. Australia have been no1 for so long, the rest of the cricket playing nations are jumping up with glee that they have now fallen. South Africa has stormed the fortress and India got them at home, but lets not forget, this is hardly the team that has dominated cricket for so long. Gone is McGrath and Warne, gone is Gilchrist, Langer and Martyn. What have South Africa and India beaten these last few months. Not the no1 team, but a team rebuilding after the loss in the last eightteen months of the most important strike weapons the world has ever known. The South Africans and Indians can call themselves no1 all they like, but until both have dominated the world cricketing scene like Australia have in the last 15 years, they are just pretenders to the throne. And don't forget the last 3 world cups.

  • Looch on January 2, 2009, 1:53 GMT

    Nice article, I agree with your assessment on Graham Smith, he is a completely different charater to when he last toured Australia. One thing though, I don't think you should call the artice How South Africa became Australia, it should be How South Africa became a great team. Without doubt, they are the numer one side at the momemt and I look foward to the clashes in the future.

  • Rex on January 1, 2009, 19:43 GMT

    Fielding doesn't play as important a role in Tests as it does in ODIs. In Tests, it's more about taking sharp catches. And in that front, India have wonderful slip catchers in Dravid (one more catch to beat Mark Waugh's record of most Test catches) and Laxman, an excellent close-in fielder Gautam Gambhir, a good fielder in Sewhag (any position is good for him and if you need proof just pick the DVD of India's last tour of SA- he took many brilliant catches) and a good-and-fast-improving keeper in Dhoni. The team SA faced in 2008 had Kumble and Ganguly who aren't the best of fielders. Besides they had just returned from a fractious tour of Australia. Naturally they were tired. Besides, they had injuries too- Tendulkar didn't play in the match SA won. The current team has a livewire in Yuvraj and a good fielder in Mishra. India was in transition when SA landed in 08, yet the series was split. So Feb 2010 is the real contest- wait and see what the real India is.

  • Rex on January 1, 2009, 19:35 GMT

    Serious point number one- neither Sewhag nor Smith "learnt" their art from the Australians, nor did attacking from the start suddenly spring out from such Australian teams. And Slater wasn't half as successful or fearsome as Sewhag. Slater was a modern day Kris Srikanth. Sewhag is a class of his own, so please don't attribute it to Australia- that's an injustice to his talent.

    Next up, this one @ David: Did you happen to hear about Laxman's 281 at Kolkata 2001 or the match-winning century at Adelaide 2004? That was against a team comprising Mcgrath, Warne, Gillespie etc. with Steve Waugh as captain and when India was in the depths.

    De Villiers scored a century against a weak Aus attack. He has more to prove. And Tendulkar has scored 1063 at 48.31 with 4 centuries all against tough opposition such as SA, Aus, Sri Lanka, Eng and yet you say he is not worthy to be picked? Hayden is in his twilight, more midnight I'll say, but not Sachin. And Laxman has scored 1086 at 47.21 in 08.

  • David on January 1, 2009, 15:48 GMT

    Good article. I agree provided India play in India. Anywhere else in the world then SA would trounce them. You forgot to mention Indias record in SA (with Sehwag,Laxman,Tendulkar etc) and Australia. I suspect Tendulkar is closer to the end of his career than the beginnning and Amla is playing the far better cricket. Tendulkar is just using his experience more, selecting shots more appropriate (something Haydos should consider). Same again re AB. Would you really have Laxman instead of AB right now? You must have an Indian paymaster haa haa. Ps you forgot to compare fielding...but that would kill your discussion.

  • Michael Jeh on January 1, 2009, 5:20 GMT

    Top man. Really enjoyable article. I particularly liked your analysis of the 4th innings run chase mentality. Sometimes, the bigger the total, the less pressure. That's why the 180 chase in Melbourne was impressive for it's clinical finish. A lot of that was down to the team edict of "let's not try to inch our way to the score, let's get there at speed". Perhaps the old SA might have tried to get there too cautiously but not these brave boys. Their thinking seems to be in good order. Well done to the SA supporters - finally the self-belief is matching the talent, skill and the good domestic structure. I've been impressed too by their sober and graceful celebrations which speaks volumes for their dignity and humility. It's sometimes very difficult to be a nice winner but these guys are showing us how. Good to see too that the sledging from both teams seems much less pronounced. Just good cricketers letting cricket do the talking.

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  • Michael Jeh on January 1, 2009, 5:20 GMT

    Top man. Really enjoyable article. I particularly liked your analysis of the 4th innings run chase mentality. Sometimes, the bigger the total, the less pressure. That's why the 180 chase in Melbourne was impressive for it's clinical finish. A lot of that was down to the team edict of "let's not try to inch our way to the score, let's get there at speed". Perhaps the old SA might have tried to get there too cautiously but not these brave boys. Their thinking seems to be in good order. Well done to the SA supporters - finally the self-belief is matching the talent, skill and the good domestic structure. I've been impressed too by their sober and graceful celebrations which speaks volumes for their dignity and humility. It's sometimes very difficult to be a nice winner but these guys are showing us how. Good to see too that the sledging from both teams seems much less pronounced. Just good cricketers letting cricket do the talking.

  • David on January 1, 2009, 15:48 GMT

    Good article. I agree provided India play in India. Anywhere else in the world then SA would trounce them. You forgot to mention Indias record in SA (with Sehwag,Laxman,Tendulkar etc) and Australia. I suspect Tendulkar is closer to the end of his career than the beginnning and Amla is playing the far better cricket. Tendulkar is just using his experience more, selecting shots more appropriate (something Haydos should consider). Same again re AB. Would you really have Laxman instead of AB right now? You must have an Indian paymaster haa haa. Ps you forgot to compare fielding...but that would kill your discussion.

  • Rex on January 1, 2009, 19:35 GMT

    Serious point number one- neither Sewhag nor Smith "learnt" their art from the Australians, nor did attacking from the start suddenly spring out from such Australian teams. And Slater wasn't half as successful or fearsome as Sewhag. Slater was a modern day Kris Srikanth. Sewhag is a class of his own, so please don't attribute it to Australia- that's an injustice to his talent.

    Next up, this one @ David: Did you happen to hear about Laxman's 281 at Kolkata 2001 or the match-winning century at Adelaide 2004? That was against a team comprising Mcgrath, Warne, Gillespie etc. with Steve Waugh as captain and when India was in the depths.

    De Villiers scored a century against a weak Aus attack. He has more to prove. And Tendulkar has scored 1063 at 48.31 with 4 centuries all against tough opposition such as SA, Aus, Sri Lanka, Eng and yet you say he is not worthy to be picked? Hayden is in his twilight, more midnight I'll say, but not Sachin. And Laxman has scored 1086 at 47.21 in 08.

  • Rex on January 1, 2009, 19:43 GMT

    Fielding doesn't play as important a role in Tests as it does in ODIs. In Tests, it's more about taking sharp catches. And in that front, India have wonderful slip catchers in Dravid (one more catch to beat Mark Waugh's record of most Test catches) and Laxman, an excellent close-in fielder Gautam Gambhir, a good fielder in Sewhag (any position is good for him and if you need proof just pick the DVD of India's last tour of SA- he took many brilliant catches) and a good-and-fast-improving keeper in Dhoni. The team SA faced in 2008 had Kumble and Ganguly who aren't the best of fielders. Besides they had just returned from a fractious tour of Australia. Naturally they were tired. Besides, they had injuries too- Tendulkar didn't play in the match SA won. The current team has a livewire in Yuvraj and a good fielder in Mishra. India was in transition when SA landed in 08, yet the series was split. So Feb 2010 is the real contest- wait and see what the real India is.

  • Looch on January 2, 2009, 1:53 GMT

    Nice article, I agree with your assessment on Graham Smith, he is a completely different charater to when he last toured Australia. One thing though, I don't think you should call the artice How South Africa became Australia, it should be How South Africa became a great team. Without doubt, they are the numer one side at the momemt and I look foward to the clashes in the future.

  • Chipmunk on January 2, 2009, 4:45 GMT

    Although it is clear that Australia are no longer no1 in test in anything but the ratings, and that will change if the loose in Sydney, everyone is too caught up in the tag of number 1. Australia have been no1 for so long, the rest of the cricket playing nations are jumping up with glee that they have now fallen. South Africa has stormed the fortress and India got them at home, but lets not forget, this is hardly the team that has dominated cricket for so long. Gone is McGrath and Warne, gone is Gilchrist, Langer and Martyn. What have South Africa and India beaten these last few months. Not the no1 team, but a team rebuilding after the loss in the last eightteen months of the most important strike weapons the world has ever known. The South Africans and Indians can call themselves no1 all they like, but until both have dominated the world cricketing scene like Australia have in the last 15 years, they are just pretenders to the throne. And don't forget the last 3 world cups.

  • Allen Johnston on January 2, 2009, 5:25 GMT

    One must be careful of over-analysing why Australia has lost 2 test matches at home, one of which included a highly improbable run chase!

    Australia's main problem at the moment is simply the decline in their bowling staff. Of the bowlers who played in the first 2 tests vs SA, Lee has a 1st class avg. of 28, Johnson 29, Siddle 29, Symonds 36; and their spinners Krejza and Hauritz, 49 and 47 respectively. Johnson is the only one with a test avg. of under 30 at 27. Their best bowler in recent times, Stuart Clark, with a test avg. of 23, was sorely missed.

    Compare this to the days when Australia had McGrath, with had a 1st class avg. of 21, and Warne, with an avg. of 26. One should not under-estimate the part these two players played in Australia's dominance.

    Batting wise, Australia is still blessed with a dearth of superb batsmen, many of whom aren't even in the team, and it is highly likely that the recent reports of the death of Austrlian cricket have been greatly exaggerated!

  • GS van Zyl on January 2, 2009, 8:47 GMT

    South Africa suffered some of their most humiliating and demoralising defeats at the hands of the Aussies since re-admission. For this reason I am ecstatic about the series win. It was long in coming and well deserved.

    But lets be honest about the situation, it was the perfect storm.

    The Aussies are the weakest they have been in the last two decades, and had the misfortune of facing a settled South African side with four of the ten most prolific batsmen of 2008 and Dale Steyn. Contributing to all of this was the fact that Smith finally matured and that his captaincy was almost flawless. Somehow South Africa also managed to develop the total belief in themselves that was always Australia's trademark.

    In South Africa most of us realise that it would be arrogant in the extreme to think that we are the top cricketing country in the world. But let’s give credit where it is due - Australia gave the opening and a prepared South Africa pounced on the opportunity. But they will be back

  • philvic on January 2, 2009, 13:13 GMT

    You cannot devalue South Africa's and India's achievements by saying that Australia is now weak. No doubt they are the poorer for losing Warne (not so much the others), but the team they are putting out is the best that they have, same as did South Africa and India during the painful years of Aussie dominance. I personally hope we wont see one team being so dominant again for a long time. All we need now is a West Indian resurgence and we could have a decade of fantastic Test cricket.

  • NS on January 3, 2009, 12:34 GMT

    Without Dale Steyn SA will not be the team which it is today. Morkel has not taken wickets by the bucketful and Nitini, Smith, Kallis etc has been with SA since dinosaurs. Take Dale Steyn out of the equation and SA is not No.1. It is too dependent on him. And mind you SA has beat an over-30 Aussie side with bowlers who would not be a part of any other side. India did beat an Aussie side with Shane Warne, McGrath, Gillespie etc. SA is no.1, not because of their supremacy but because Aussies have come down badly. This SA team will lose if Warne is back. That's the bottomline. They just cannot play quality spin.