November 18, 2012

South Africa's quicks need to be proactive in Adelaide

The pitch won't allow them to sit back and wait for the batsmen to make mistakes

The South Africans should be wary of the Adelaide Test. They were extremely lacklustre at the Gabba, especially following the washed-out second day.

The two areas where they fell down badly were their bowling, which lacked venom, and tactical imagination. They sat back and waited for Australia to make mistakes, and against good sides that ploy usually backfires.

Adelaide might be known as the city of churches but it can be most unwelcoming for fast bowlers who aren't prepared to bend their back for long periods and stretch their imagination to the limits. Batsmen with a thirst for runs look forward to visiting Adelaide, not just because there are actually more pubs in the near vicinity of the oval than places of worship. The pitch is true and the bounce reliable for the first three days, and that's the time for batsmen to slake their thirst. After that, things start to get more interesting for bowlers. The bounce becomes variable, the ball occasionally deviates off the wearing sections of the pitch, and the spinners extract some turn.

That's why Test matches that appear for all money to be headed for a draw suddenly come alive at the tail-end. The second Test of the 2003-04 series against India is a classic example, where both teams amassed in excess of 500 in the first innings. Then, on a seemingly benign pitch, Ajit Agarkar led a second-innings heist and Rahul Dravid piloted India to an unlikely victory.

At the Gabba, the South Africans functioned like a badly tuned Model T Ford. While Graeme Smith seemed content to settle for a draw following a day lost to rain, Michael Clarke, as usual, was busy conjuring up ways to clinch victory. If Smith and the South African fast bowlers adopt a similar passive approach in the second Test, the chances of an Australian win will greatly increase.

South Africa's lack of variety in attack will be corrected by the inclusion of Imran Tahir for Adelaide. However, the absence of venom from their quicks will only be rectified by a concerted effort from Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. We hear how South Africa has the No. 1 attack in the world, but at the Gabba they appeared to lack a bowler to "shake up the opposition". Unless they are prepared to inject a bit more venom into their bowling in Adelaide, the Australian batting line-up will continue to excel.

Smith has to be more proactive. Adelaide has the sort of pitch where you need to try a few things to get into the batsman's mind and create doubt. Sitting back, waiting for errors of judgement, won't work. On the evidence of Brisbane, Clarke has a big advantage over Smith in this regard.

Australia's biggest dilemma is whether to include the injury-prone Shane Watson for a Test where having bowling options will be invaluable. Cricket Australia is correct to have reservations about Watson's ability to get through a Test physically - either as an allrounder or as a specialist batsman - but it's ridiculous when it calls into question his right to a lofty ranking on the list of Australia's best batsmen. Watson is a high-class player of fast bowling, and while his penchant for quickfire 60s may not win games, it can set the team on the early road to victory. It's simple arithmetic: the longer bowlers have to take 20 wickets, the greater the chances of victory.

The Australian bowlers at the Gabba, particularly James Pattinson and Peter Siddle, displayed more passion than their South African counterparts. Pattinson and Siddle are both capable of explosive spells where they test the technique and temperament of the opposition batsmen, and there's a call for this style of bowling at the Adelaide Oval. It helps that Clarke, with his intuitive, proactive captaincy, is quick to sense the right time for such an onslaught.

Incredibly, after a pedestrian first day's bowling and a top-order collapse, Australia took the psychological honours from the drawn Brisbane Test. Clarke's captaincy, as much as his fluent strokeplay, was responsible for that tremendous turnaround, and a repeat performance in Adelaide will see Australia take the lead in the series.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sachin on November 21, 2012, 16:31 GMT

    @paps123, just because most of the English batsmen can't handle a little spin & your 120km/h trundlers can't get wickets unless conditions help them, doesn't mean the "pitches are poor". The damn pitch didn't even turn that much, it was mostly flat & a better team with better batting & bowling skills would have easily drawn the Test! And if Indian pitches are so easy to bat on & Indian batsmen so pathetic then why do English & many other foreign batsmen struggle to score in India???? English players simply don't know how to bat & bowl in sub-continental conditions, just as much as sub-continental don't struggle to do that in Eng & other places where the ball moves &/or bounces; the only difference is that sub-continental teams don't whine about "poor pitches" in Eng, Aus, SA, etc. Besides, as somebody has said, both teams have to play on the same 22-yards & the better team wins, so stop whining & learn to admit the fact English aren't good enough in these conditions!

  • David on November 20, 2012, 20:24 GMT

    Ian Chappel justifiably criticises SA's Gabba flat-track failure, but is unfairly suggestive when writing "We hear how South Africa has the No. 1 attack in the world." We DO hear this, but from whom? Not the ICC - they list No.1 teams & players, but not attacks. We don't (often) hear the claim by players & administrators. Yes, occasionally egotistic autobiographers & ignorant administrators err when prodded by the press, but....

    "The No.1 attack" is a media label. It is Journalists who bestow the empty epithet, employing it erroneously to add 'weight' to wispy content. When usage is clearly unjustified, they simply add 'arguably' to the label, happily substituting opinion for empirical evidence! (Arguably, they are untruthful!)

    Mr. Chappel: daily we hear this from journalists, & today, even from you. However, the players - in this case the Saffers - are not the source, & thus it is unfair to judge their play using this meaningless title. Don't blame the team for a media meme!

  • qasim on November 20, 2012, 11:22 GMT

    Test match is not all about great batting and great bowling, these are conventional tactics to get the game, but the five day match needs more things to be considered. First of all combination of team always matter in test matches. Every team needs to include verity in bowling. Though conditions are being changing rapidly on the field due the excessive cricket but still people believe that a balance bowling side could make a difference. Quality fast bowlers and at least one quality spinner, especially leggy would make a difference. Now come to other side, Captaincy, off course the most crucial department to be handled and fulfilled with all its requirements. When two teams seem to be equal in all terms then there comes captaincy that finds the loop holes in other teams batting. Giving a ball to the right bowler at right time would come up with lot of goods. No need to wait for the mistakes, go and make them commit that mistakes..

  • raghavan on November 20, 2012, 2:12 GMT

    In 2008 SA routed India at Motera and earlier this year SA thrashed England at the Oval.Steyn destroyed India for 76 at Motera and ABD made a 200.Against England,the bowlers came back after an ordinary day 1,Amla,Kallis and Smith flattened the English attack and Tahir outbowled Swann.Both tracks are similar to Adelaide,slow in nature with bit of turn but batsman-friendly.So SA can win provided their batsmen make big scores and their bowlers show improvement in their performance from the Gabba.

  • Johnathon on November 19, 2012, 23:18 GMT

    South Africa should have the edge, but Michael Clarke and Hussey are enough to make it equal. Especially Clarke. His form has been godly in the last year and he seems like a very determined captain. Apart from Mahela, I think Clarke is probably one of the best captains in cricket today. (Dhoni way too overrated in captaincy but he is a great ODI captain)

  • Randolph on November 19, 2012, 17:19 GMT

    Australia will win easily. Hussey and Clarke to score doubles.

  • Dave on November 19, 2012, 9:30 GMT

    @tariq Wani - not sure about Aus being saved by `one brave individual effort` as you put it - centuries to Cowan, Clarke and Hussey and Pattinson the best bowler on display...

  • pradipto on November 19, 2012, 6:33 GMT

    Whatever said & done, both Australia and SA have an equal chance of winning which is not the case in the IND- ENG series where bcoz of poor pitches having nothing for English fast bowlers with the new ball, 2 or 3 poor Indian players will look like top batsman. Pitches make a contest or make it lack lustre as in sub continent

  • Alex on November 19, 2012, 0:50 GMT

    SA bowling rely on Steyn but steyn getting non effective in flat pitches. Philander will have GODLY stats but he will disappear when his team needs him. Morkel can pick up few wickets. They really need a "super fast" bowler to compllement steyn. That said pliander may pick up tons of easy wickets and stats. he is not one SA should rely on him crunch time. Clarke is dummy against real fast bowler who can bowl chest height. He is only indian batsman in aussie line up. :). I think what i think SA should do attack the batsman as a team and find the thing batsman least want to do. Make batsman play uncomfortable shots.. Evey on have center of gravity they lean towards that and make them do opposite of what they are comfortable. People talk about length all the time. It kinda over rated concept. It is not length is the issue it is length that batsman uncomfortable means...bowlers ability change length after batsman made his move make a bowler great bowler.

  • Alex on November 19, 2012, 0:33 GMT

    SA supposed to be number 1 team with great batting with great bowler. I feel like they never peaked because of multi culture. Something make them docile. They are not fighting hard. I meant they are not planning that well. That said smith captaincy , clarke captaincy and dhoni captaincy all same. All luck based. Same guys will look clueless and without ideas when they start losing. They all are roosters in chinese astrology. They are best leaders but you can't expect them be shrewd. Thats not their reportiere. They are solid. They always have united team when they win. Clarke is marginally better because of aussie fighting spirit. If you make the team to be pure athletic and match of mental toughness , aussies win most games. SA lacks that extra where someone bring their X factor. Great all rounders had that extra , they will the team to win in many case by sheer ability. SA lacks that powerful alll rounder. Kallis is more of all batting all rounder than the impact bowling all rounder