Aakash Chopra
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Aakash Chopra looks at various aspects of cricket from a player's perspective

The four horsemen of the apocalypse

The fast bowlers who form South Africa's attack are all right-armers, but each poses a different challenge to the batsman

Aakash Chopra

February 11, 2013

Comments: 54 | Text size: A | A

Morne Morkel sends down a delivery, Australia v South Africa, 1st Test, 3rd day, Brisbane, November 11, 2012
When a batsman looks at Morne Morkel's high arm action, he begins to believe everything will be pitched short © Getty Images
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Even though they must mean something, the ICC rankings have often failed to represent the real footing of a team. England, for instance, are ranked No. 2 in ODIs in spite of not having won a one-day series in India since 1984; India got to No. 1 in Tests having mostly played in subcontinental conditions.

But the current No. 1 in Tests, South Africa, are just as dominant on the field as they are on paper. They have an impeccable home record and an enviable away record.

Good Test teams can be built around batsmen who will score runs in heaps to give their bowlers a chance, but great ones are built around quality bowlers, because winning a Test match demands taking 20 wickets.

The current South African bowling attack ticks all the boxes, except the one that calls for a quality spinner, a factor that might hurt them when they tour the subcontinent next.

Their pace attack itself is far from one-dimensional. Each of their four fast bowlers is radically different from the other three, and poses different challenges for the batsman.

Dale Steyn
He runs in fast and bowls even faster, but that's not what worries a top-order batsman facing Steyn. If he was just bowling fast, it would be a lot easier to handle him than it actually is. The likes of Shaun Tait, Tino Best and Nantie Hayward also generated similar speeds but were not half as effective. As a batsman, once you get the hang of the pace, you start moving a little early to get into the right positions before the ball reaches you. You also lower your backlift or start its downswing a little early. It's not that pace won't rattle you or won't get you out every now and then, but it won't be as lethal as when it is accompanied by swing. A genuinely quick bowler who can also swing the ball prodigiously is rare, and that's why Steyn is so successful.

A little secret about his modus operandi is that he drops his pace by about 10-15% when the ball is new, because, for the most part, a bowler can control the swing with the new ball only when he's bowling at about 85% of his top speed. If he bowls faster, he will either compromise on swing or lose some control over his line and length. Over the years, Steyn has mastered the art of lowering his pace just a tad to swing batsmen out.

But he also knows when to step it up - a trick many bowlers tend to forget in the pursuit of accuracy, or because they are reluctant to push the envelope again. The moment the Kookaburra gets old and stops swinging, Steyn steps up the pace, and he doesn't hesitate to bowl a barrage of bouncers to push the batsman back before slipping in a full one much quicker.

 
 
When facing Philander, the batsman is never sure about which deliveries to play and which to leave, and while the length drags him forward, it's never full enough to drive
 

Morne Morkel
When batting against Steyn's swing, the most common mistake a batsman makes is to play down the wrong line, but with Morkel the tough bit is gauging the length. His towering height and very high arm action make the batsman uncertain of the length Morkel is bowling, because the moment the batsman has to look up - at a slightly higher than normal eye level - he begins to think everything is pitched short.

Morkel also generates disconcerting bounce on most surfaces, which compounds the batsman's problems. Even if the batsman convinces himself to go forward, because of the steep bounce the ball will hit high on the bat, if not the gloves. And if the batsman is rooted to the crease or is deep inside it, the full balls will likely find the outside edge. And Morkel is smart enough to bowl a fair sprinkling of full deliveries.

If handling the bounce isn't tough enough, Morkel also gets lateral movement off the surface. Since he's a hit-the-deck-hard bowler, he's always able to extract a bit more off the surface, especially once the ball gets old.

Playing Steyn and Morkel in tandem makes a batsman's job a lot tougher, for the challenges thrown from either end are radically different from each other.

Vernon Philander
Given a choice, most batsmen would prefer to play Philander instead of Steyn or Morkel. But looks can be deceptive. Philander's masterful control over his line (always around the fourth or fifth stump) and length (always bringing the batsman forward) makes him an outstanding bowler. The batsman is never sure about which deliveries to play and which to leave, and while the length drags him forward, it's never full enough to drive.

Philander also has the rare ability to move the ball off the surface, but not by means of conventional offcutters or legcutters. When he bowls, the seam is not scrambled, even after pitching. For a batsman it's a nightmare, because no matter how much you've got the movement covered, the ball still beats the bat, for it just keeps moving.


Daniel Flynn was caught behind off Jacques Kallis, South Africa v New Zealand, 1st Test, Cape Town, 2nd day, January 3, 2013
Jacques Kallis' subtle changes of pace often fool the batsman into making mistakes © AFP
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Jacques Kallis
Kallis, the release bowler for Steyn, Morkel and Philander, is as wily an allrounder as you will ever get. While he has lost a bit of pace, he has got smarter in the bargain. He doesn't try to routinely bounce batsmen out anymore (to compensate for his relative lack of pace he would have to dig it in a lot shorter), but he hasn't ruled out the delivery completely either: he knows that even if it's easier to pick, it still needs some skill to play well. The bouncer also helps make his full-length deliveries more effective. It's always better if the batsman is a little wary of taking a long stride down the pitch.

Kallis has also mastered the art of operating at 75% without becoming ineffective. We generally tend to acknowledge changes of pace only when the difference is stark (a spinner bowling an arm ball or a fast bowler bowling a slower one), but little do we realise that subtle changes of pace by a fast bowler are equally effective, if not more.

All these four bowlers belong to the same genre - right-arm fast/medium - but challenge the batsman differently. Steyn troubles with swing and pace; Morkel with bounce and pace; Philander messes with the batsman's judgement of lines and length, and Kallis, in the guise of a release bowler, gets him to drop his guard before slipping in the 100% ball.

South Africa already have a quality batting line-up in Hashim Amla, Graeme Smith, Kallis and AB de Villiers. If they find a top-quality spinner, they will be pretty close to being considered one of the best Test teams of all time.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by crashed on (February 14, 2013, 5:43 GMT)

"Dale Steyn to me…he is a terrific bowler, the best bowler in the world, he would be a top-class bowler in any era, " Coming from Geoffrey Boycott I think nothing more need to be said

Posted by Sir.Ivor on (February 14, 2013, 4:57 GMT)

While the South African attack is one of the greatest I would think the West Indian attack under Clive Lloyd of Roberts,Holding,Marshall and Garner was better. They all had pace,accuracy,variations,and hostility like we have never seen before them or ever after them.They would devastate every team on all kinds of wickets. Tino best who devastated Bangladesh in Bangladesh recently is a poor cousin of those superhumans. The South African attack good as they are was not very incisive in the first two tests they played against Australia recently in Australia. They won the third Test very well though as they are normally known to do. But the point I wish to make is that the West Indian attack that I am referring to never suffered that lack of incisiveness. That is why I rate them truly special. In fact for sheer pace bowling skills I would put Malcolm Marshall a bit ahead of Dale Steyn. He was truly unmatched. Wasim Akram and Richard Hadlee are the others that I have the higest regard for.

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (February 13, 2013, 16:14 GMT)

@Shan156 You right you cant compare this SA attack to the WI attack in the 80s. Because this SA attack is BETTER. More accurate, more relentless and they dont play their matches on uncovered pitches like they did in the 80's. Lets not forget how batsmen friendly pitches are these days to ensure the commercial viability of keeping people at a game for 5 days and T20 Cricket. Chuck in bat technology too.

Dale Steyn and Philanders strike rates are better than any of those WI bowlers you mention. Dont get stuck in nostalgia and dont spend all your time looking in the history books because you are missing one of the greatest fast bowlers to bowl !!!!

Posted by Shan156 on (February 13, 2013, 1:01 GMT)

No way can this SA attack be compared to the WI attack of the 80s or even to the 90s when they had Ambrose, Walsh, and Bishop. Marshall, Holding, Roberts, Garner, Croft, Davis, whoa. That was one attack that gave opposition batsmen nightmares. While the current SA attack is good, with Steyn already establishing himself amongst the all-time greats, the rest are still unproven all around the world. While the WI 80s attack was, man-for-man, superior to the SA pacemen now, they also had a superior bench strength. SA fans can claim all they want now that their team is #1 but that doesn't change facts. WI of 80s >> SA now. In fact, so were the Aussies of the noughties.

Posted by Shan156 on (February 13, 2013, 0:56 GMT)

Philander hasn't played a single test in the sub-continent yet, has he now? How is he then considered one of the great bowlers? This is not to suggest that he won't return with great statistics in the SC but till he has done that, surely he cannot be considered a great?

Posted by Shan156 on (February 13, 2013, 0:54 GMT)

"England, for instance, are ranked No. 2 in ODIs in spite of not having won a one-day series in India since 1984"

Severely flawed argument. Aus. were ranked #1 in tests before the 2004-2005 series in India despite not winning a test series in India since 1969-1970. Does it mean that their ranking was not valid? Who would have Aakash claimed as the #1 team then?

Posted by 777aditya on (February 13, 2013, 0:22 GMT)

Masterly article as usual by Akash - his timing with words is good as it was with his bat! With such beautifully balanced opinions about everything he ponders on, he is an absolute reader's delight. Ahem, the topic discussed upon, well - everyone knows these are the four aces in RSA's bowling line up and are finished products. However, what is even more frightening is the fact that they still have such talented bowlers of the caliber of McLaren, Tsotsobe, Kleinveldt, Morris, Theron, Parnell, Phangiso (spinner) pushing for spots in the playing eleven. This, in my humble opinion, does make RSA the strongest bowling side currently. Of course, no one can doubt the exceptional batting line up they possess. Since the Jonty days, fielding has been their forte. No wonder, they are ranked as high as they are!

Posted by Energetic. on (February 12, 2013, 20:00 GMT)

South Africa deserve to be world number 1, they got virtually all their bases covered like any Cricket team should. They play as a team, enjoy playing the game and have hunger for success. They are also one of the few teams that play on sporting wickets which is one of the reasons they're on top while most of the other teams plays way too much T20 on flat wickets which won't get you many skills or experience.

Posted by bored_iam on (February 12, 2013, 18:53 GMT)

@ Soso_killer- Hehe. Actually have to concede that to you. The world's no. 1 AND 2 sides are primarily South African. :-) But my point was with regards to the discussion in the earlier comments wrt the 'greatest of all time'. And since the Pace attack's being discussed here, I thought the point with regards to bench strength was valid. And as an extension to the bench strength in bowling, was the comment on the bench strength in batting. Hope Ive justified my reasoning there.

Posted by Sanjiyan on (February 12, 2013, 11:50 GMT)

Comparing this SA bowling squad to the Windies team of the past is a stretch at best. Im an avid SA fan, but i dont think these 4 are quite up there with the 4 nightmares the windies had. This current SA lineup however is head and shoulder above what else is on offer in the world today(and arguebly the past 15-20 years). To the aussie fans harping about whats currently in the wings only thing i have to say is: we'll see in 4 years if these kids are still there. Since lee,Mcgrath and warne aus had a number of frighteningly good prospects, yet none are fixed features in the test squad, let alone fringe players now. I dont know what there doing to these bowlers down under but its doing more harm than good.

Posted by NixNixon on (February 12, 2013, 11:26 GMT)

People saying M Morkel is dissapointing must please look at these stats:

Brett Lee stikerate. 54.96 / average. 30.82 / wickets. 310

Morne Morkel strikerate 54.94 / average. 29.94 / wickets. 173

So if Morne Morkel is useless than so was Brett Lee.

Posted by anand_rci on (February 12, 2013, 7:40 GMT)

@chicko australia have been saying this from past 5 years.they mentioned about mitchell jhonson hilfenhaus and ryan harris but they are now not even half effective as south africans and look at the fitness of south african bowlers,steyn bowled 11 overs spell in the last test while the australians have injury list of siddle cummins and pattinson. and even if australia has good bowling attack compare the batting line up of both the teams....amla smith devillears duplesis duminy all below 30s. so southafrcan team is way ahead of australia...

Posted by RD_TEST_CRIC_FOREVER on (February 12, 2013, 7:07 GMT)

Being a Test Cricket Lover i always admire the SA team.......... They will as dominant and ruthless as windies or oz .........with same time earning respect with fairplay!!!!! kudos to pace attack as well........ I will Surely rate this team in top 3-4 all time gr8 teams..........

Posted by satishchandar on (February 12, 2013, 5:01 GMT)

Philander is a worthy addition to ever threatening Steyn and unpredictable Morkel. When there was no permanent third seamer, Morkel's inconsistency was of huge burden to the team. Morkel can't be depended upon always and the third seamer was still not found. Once Philander settled into the groove, Morkel is allowed the freedom. Steyn will continue to be aggressive. Saying that, the best of them is Kallis to be apt. He just comes in and based on situation with his experience decides what to bowl. He can bowl attacking, short stuff, change of pace, swing it if conditions aid, maintain run flow and everything. In some ways, i rate Kallis as next to Steyn in terms of unsettling batsman so that the other end can walk away with honors. Genius of a player. With this attack capable of doing the job in almost all conditions, the spinner don't have much of burden. They have chance to get more false shots if bowled with accuracy.

Posted by bearface on (February 12, 2013, 4:08 GMT)

@chicko lol Steyn is better than the entire Australian pace attack put together so dont be so sure.

Posted by Dhanvanth on (February 12, 2013, 0:50 GMT)

South Africa are really gonna dominate world cricket for sometime now! But a superb analysis by akash:) he can become a analyst for ICC. great going akash! I always admire ur way of thinking

Posted by Soso_killer on (February 12, 2013, 0:26 GMT)

@bored_iam strength in depth has nothing to do with this article.

I could simply counter argue that SA is a great team already. There are more South Africans playing international cricket today, than any other team. Australia and the WI never had to deal with their talent being stolen. The fact that South Africa fills 3 international teams makes them great by your virtue right?

Posted by chicko1983 on (February 11, 2013, 22:04 GMT)

please, they only just beat Australia in Australia, with what is generally thought to be one of the weakest Aussie teams in decades. Aussies were the best for 15 years, in both formats, and this SA team has been no. 1 for about 6 mths. By the time of the next Aussie and SA series the Aussies pace attack will be better than SA: Pattinson, Starc, Cummins (all at least 5 years younger than Morkel who is the youngest of the four mentioned in the article) and then if they need a fourth - Bird. Once these three Aussies get into their mid-late 20s, then you'll see one of the greatest pace attacks ever.

Posted by ProdigyA on (February 11, 2013, 20:53 GMT)

Steyn is da man..............

Posted by Josh1942 on (February 11, 2013, 19:26 GMT)

@Boston Pride. You do realise that SA has won 5 series in a row - home and away? Soon to be 6. In fact they have won 12 series in the past decade - home and away. The only loss being to Australia in SA and that was a real fluke by Australia.SA have won 2 of the last 3 series against Australia - beating them twice in Australia. Their team is already on a par with the best ever and they are still playing!They have a really good test side and their test sides have always been tough and real fighters. They do not fold. ODI is different because they always seem to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory although not many sides in history could have chased 434 runs and won!

Posted by hhillbumper on (February 11, 2013, 19:17 GMT)

They are a good attack but you have to feel that Steyn is the one that makes them work. Philander needs some juice in the pitch.As for Morkel he keeps bowling just short of a length and would he benefit from bowling fuller or would he just float it up ala Caddick. Still would pick the orginal Windies foursome over this. Steyn reminds me of Marshall and that is some compliment as don't think anyone is ever as good as Marshall

Posted by applethief on (February 11, 2013, 19:16 GMT)

One thing worth pointing out is that this is a side that isn't dependent on a "sum equals more than its parts" kind of equation. When one bowler has been injured, another such as Kleinveldt has stepped up and the side has still kept winning. Sure, they work well together, but their strength also lies in operating effectively in whichever team they play with, which bodes well for all he other quick waiting in the wings for South Africa

Posted by   on (February 11, 2013, 18:27 GMT)

are these your horsemen of apocalypse akash? do you think they can be compared to the original FOUR of holding, roberts, croft and garner. oh and i didn't mention marshall and another 3 sets of 4 hmoa who couldn't break into the w.i. side!!! in my opinion there is only 1 horseman in this s.a. team and that's steyn. so i don't see no 4 horsemen.

Posted by Robster1 on (February 11, 2013, 18:21 GMT)

And then there are the quailty replacements - De Lange, Kleinveldt, Abbott, Birch and Savage.

Posted by bored_iam on (February 11, 2013, 16:07 GMT)

And to be honest, Philander will always struggle when the pitch is a little less helpful, as we saw in Australia. And that is where the true worth of a Morkel will come into play. People may argue that minus Philander there's a Kliendvelt, or that to back up Duminy theres a Faf. True. Good point. and they are the best team currently for that reason. BUT an injury to Kallis or Amla or DeVilliers and they dont seem to have an equally good replacement in the long run, a strength of the brilliant Oz teams of the nineties and the noughties. Mcgrath backed by Bichel. Lee, Kasprowicz. Gillespie. MacGill or Hogg for Warne. Damien Martyn. Darren Lehman. Stuart Law. Brad Hodge. Haddin for Gilchrist....phew-and I havent even named their first choice 11! Give them time.They are the best team in the world currently. Can they be amongst the best of all time? Lets hope so!

Posted by bored_iam on (February 11, 2013, 15:59 GMT)

A quick analysis: SA, full strength, is the best team in the world currently. Eng, a close second (despite the loss to SA). Morkel is perhaps one of the unluckiest bowlers in their lineup-brilliant balls that just seem to miss the edge. However, despite being a huge SA fan, I see it difficult for SA to sustain this beyond the next 2 yrs simply because they do NOT have a bench strength. And THAT is where they shall struggle to be compared to the great teams of the past. Kallis has only 2-3 yrs left and not sure who after Smith. And yes, bring this team to the UAE or Kolkata-even this great bowling attack will struggle.

Posted by   on (February 11, 2013, 14:41 GMT)

The great WI bowlers could bowl 6 bouncers, played in a bowlers era and created mayhem. Steyn and company plays in a batsmans era and still role teams for sub 50 and 100 scores. As a unit they function very well and will win more than loose. We have lost 1 series in SA and non away and still we are seen as not good enough. Only the windies were unbeaten for 15 years, but they also drew series and the ausie side also drew and lost a series here and there. This team are busy building a culture and as they grow as a unit they are going to get better. A unit are much better than individuals. It's alway supporters of other teams that lost against the proteas that want to post drivel and undermine the teams performance. And in most casses its the same guys.

Posted by DeckChairand6pack on (February 11, 2013, 13:20 GMT)

As a Proteas fan, and having experienced all the indifferent results and lows since readmission, it is great to experience this moment in the sun. For a few reasons, we cannot talk of this team in the same glowing terms as those of Australia and WI. We need to stay at the top for a lot longer, our ascent is quite recent and we need to sustain this dominance for some time still. Our recent home performances aside, our home record is patchy. It needs to be seen as a fortress before we can talk about greatness. Not having a spinner is not as big a problem as people may think. It would be wonderful to have a Murali or a Warnie, but these are once in a generation occurences and it is not what we do. It is only history that can decide how great this team was, so we will have to talk again in 3/4 years. Hopefully then we will still be No. 1!

Posted by Greatest_Game on (February 11, 2013, 13:11 GMT)

@ boston_pride on (Feb 11, 5:39 GMT) You claim that SA "lack ... killer instinct and ruthlessness…" Really? New Zealand & Pakistan might disagree. England too. Australia could not beat them, & were skewered in Perth. About that, Ponting said they imposed "themselves on the series & they DID IT BETTER THAN I HAVE SEEN ANY TEAM TAKE A GAME AWAY FROM THE OPPOSITION BEFORE…They put us under more pressure than I think we have been under for a long time."

That article begins saying "Ricky Ponting praised South Africa for not being "too scared" to impose themselves and said they had "total belief" that they could win the series. For a team...often accused of lacking killer instinct, those words could become their most prized compliment." http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia-v-south-africa-2012/content/story/594932.html

I'll take Ricky Ponting's opinion over yours any day. He knows what he is talking about. He led the Aus of the past to which you specifically refer. Did you? I think not.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (February 11, 2013, 13:09 GMT)

@Jonathan Jono Lane: Maybe you should have a closer look at Amla's results over the last few years, you'll find he's done far more than score a couple of hundreds in England. Look at his fine hundreds on the last tour of India, or the incredible innings in Perth. I could go on. And if you ignore the batting of Kallis, Smith and AB to focus only on Amla it doesn't seem like a very impartial analysis of the batting.

As far as dropped catches go, these happen in most big innings. KP's hundred to seal the 2005 Ashes, Lara's massive knocks, Clarke's recent huge hundreds - all included dropped catches. To say that Amla somehow only succeeds because of dropped catches is bizarre to say the least.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (February 11, 2013, 12:48 GMT)

@ christy29 on (Feb 11, 5:35 GMT) I think you miss the critical point about Morkel. He is of such contrast to Stetn, Philander & Kallis, forces batsmen to consistently adjust their play. He makes he other bowlers more lethal bcause the batsmen are readjusting every over.

You appear to be ignorant of his stats. 173 wickets in 90 innings, an ave of 29.93, & a SR of 54.9 are hardly shoddy. They are all slightly better than Jimmy Anderson - ave 30.39 & SR 58, better than Broad's ave 31.93 & SR of 62.9. Hilfenhaus - slightly better ave - 28.5, weaker SR - 61.3. Siddle's ave 28.51, & SR 56.6 - very close to Morkel, as is Mitch Johnson's ave 30.63 & 54.7 SR. Aus's "hot" new bowler, Starc - ave 29.32 & SR 49.2 is hardly much better.

It's pointless to go on proving that Mortkel's stats are as good as most of the world's top bowlers, except Steyn & Philander, of course.

@ Sasi (Feb 11, 3:39 GMT) - you too are barely informed about Morkel. Read the stats before you flaunt a poor opinion.

Posted by DGIFT on (February 11, 2013, 12:27 GMT)

i'd like to see De Lange & Morkel bowling in the Same Match (Im sure robby can sit out one match maybe a dead rubber) and see the difference between the 2. Morkel is quite unplayable wen on Song bt that happens like every 5 Test matches i think De Lange has the ability to Outbowl Morkel. Also looking forward to seeing JP & Bat with Faf Should great.

Posted by   on (February 11, 2013, 12:20 GMT)

An interesting article and fair comments by readers. As a S African, I am biased in favour of the Proteas. Having said that, I have seen the team on a number of tests lately and I was glad every time that I support them and not the opposition! The fact of the matter is that it is a very balanced team and you can expect a contribution from each individual on a regular basis. No doubt the number one test team in the world. One caveat is that they have to be more consistent with their catching. Too may catches went down while the ground fielding should also improve. It is impossible to compare teams from different eras. For older South Africans, the teams of Peter van der Merwe and Ali Bacher in the late sixties and early seventies were as good as any. Unfortunately, Graeme Polllock ( still second to Sir Donald B: average 63 after 23 tests), Barry Richards (average nearly 100 in 4 tests), Lee Irvine, Denis Lindsay, Clive Rice, Vincent vd Byl were never seen on the world stage. A pity.

Posted by   on (February 11, 2013, 12:15 GMT)

At the risk of starting world war three, I would like to suggest that whilst SA has a pretty decent attack its batting is too frail for the team to be ranked amongst the best ever teams (even if they find a spinner). Amla's recent reputation relies largely on his huge scores from last summer against England. These were enhanced by a generous series of dropped catches. Sides that take their catches will find SA's batting line up far less of a problem than it's bowling attack.

Posted by Highflyer_GP on (February 11, 2013, 11:33 GMT)

The Windies never had a quality spinner during their era of dominance either, so I don't see how it's relevant in any way.

Posted by VanillaThunder on (February 11, 2013, 9:49 GMT)

In my (Australian) opinion, South Africa would definitely push the envelope for one of the greatest modern teams - on paper. They've played well in patches but disappointed in others, without quite living up to their full potential. Their pace attack can hold their head high, but the batting needs to lift more consistently (bar one bearded bloke by the name of Amla) to really push for historical significance. They're a bloody good side, that's for sure, and I firmly believe they don't need to waste their time with that spinner rubbish, but they're still a way off one of the best in history.

Posted by mahjut on (February 11, 2013, 9:25 GMT)

mazii - you mention McGrath (a worthy mention btw) but Steyn has bowled against Dravid, Sewag, Ganguly, Laxman, SRT, Ghambir, Dhoni - a deeper line up than the 4 you mention - and Steyn's ave in India is 20 having taken 26 wkts in 5 matches (SR 34 in India!!!) while McG took 33 in 8 but also with a great ave (SR can't have been near Steyn's which would mean Steyn's Econ wouldn't be near McG's - all old info). Anyway, a great team (which SA may be) does not have to have a great spinner ... there are no Muralis around at the moment and Peterson offers a bit more than Harry did (I am no hater of harry ... him being a zimbo and all) and since making his 'comeback' in 2006 is comparable to other modern teams' spinners ... and that's enough! he played a big part in the Aus series win and although the pace attack doesn't give him too much to do - how can anyone moan about what he's done when he's asked? Quality - he is! great? unimportant .. he compliments the team just fine so far!

Posted by venkatesh018 on (February 11, 2013, 9:13 GMT)

Accurate analysis..Akash ! They have a couple of decent reserves too-Marchant De Lange, Rory Kleindlvelt(although he is not the same class as yet).

Posted by shovwar on (February 11, 2013, 8:07 GMT)

@Boston_pride I dont think U watched SA cricket lately or know anything you are talking about....The stuff u mentioned that SA lacks...They have mastered them in the last few years...You are just denying or have no clue.

Posted by mazii on (February 11, 2013, 7:47 GMT)

SA is a good test team but it will never be e great one even they have a quality spinner in their side. In the past when WI and AUS dominated the world cricket there were many teams that possessed great batsmen. But now due to T20, technique and stamina seem to be gone. I'm not saying they are not good bowlers but certainly they are not great. Except kallis who played against great batsmen. Mcgrath took wickets when India had SRT, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman in Indian side. Mcgrath took wickets when England had some great batsmen and WI had LARA and SA had Kirsten. Waseem took wickets when there was lara, SRT and Steve waughs were on full throttle. Clarke already thrashed these bowlers at the average of five per over. They are not over rated but certainly they are dominating the world scene when there are no great batsmen left except SRT. And SRT scored a century there in SA against these very bowlers. And Clarke also socred. Simply they are operating when all greats had retired.

Posted by harikeshan on (February 11, 2013, 6:21 GMT)

The original horsemen of the apocalypse were Roberts, Holding, Garner and Croft, with many more in the likes of Marshall, Clarke, waiting in to fill the ranks. No other country has or team has instilled fear and dread in batsmen like the original four. SA will find it hard to replace someone should not be fit. Moreover, lets see them perform in dry flat pitches of the sub continent.

Posted by Romanticstud on (February 11, 2013, 5:55 GMT)

Remember, even though Morkel may bowl the odd "wicket taking" no-ball ... he is the perfect foil for any of the other bowlers in the team ... leave him out at your peril ... Kallis has the knack of, when a partnership is starting to develop, that the ball gets thrown to him ... in an over or two ... wicket ... unfortunately, for South Africa, is that although they have Peterson, Tahir, Duminy, Du Plessis, Smith, that can turn their arm, none of them are of the quality of a matchwinner ...Brilliant article

Posted by   on (February 11, 2013, 5:54 GMT)

Nice analysis,as always, Aakash. Batsmen tend to take liberties against the weakest link in their armour, a spinner in this case, and tend to lose their wickets. This happened in the case of Peterson.

Posted by zero_knowledge on (February 11, 2013, 5:40 GMT)

even kallis can crank up the pace when required, in general he bowls around 130-135 which is better than what zaheer khan is bowling nowadays and he has a really nasty well directed bouncer which he bowls around 140+ and for such a big guy he is quite athletic and rarely injured which is phenomenal

Posted by boston_pride on (February 11, 2013, 5:39 GMT)

SA will never be an all-time great time simply because they lack the killer instinct and ruthlessness that has defined the W.I and Aus of the past... They are a seriously good team but unless they constantly dominate world cricket and win games when they are down and out, they will never be an all time great team... They simply are a little soft and flat at a lot of phases and are not aggressive enough.

Posted by christy29 on (February 11, 2013, 5:35 GMT)

I really don't think morkel is very good. Everyone talks about how he will get the big haul next but he never does. I've only seen him get alot of wickets once with alot of watching, people seem to excuse this because of pace/bounce. He bowls way too short and doesn't move the ball. Even if he deserves his place, He's certainly nowhere near as good as steyn/ philander

Posted by Rahul_78 on (February 11, 2013, 5:27 GMT)

No doubt all four are great bowlers but the T20 cricket has played havoc with batsmens technic, patience and endurance. It is not surprising that this bowling attack has skittled out the opposition for less then 100 runs on many occasions and will continue to do so on South African wickets specially. Cricketing world has lost out on the batsmen of quality of Ponting, Dravid and Inzamam recently and many more who had the technic, experience and patience to grind it out in testing conditions. But having said that nothing should be taken away from SAF attack. All of them are special in their own rights.

Posted by   on (February 11, 2013, 5:06 GMT)

Yes...It is correct that they don't have a genuine spin attack...but then no subcontinent team has batsmen that can counter this pace not india not pakistan and definitely not srilanka..and as some great cricketer said it is not in the pitch but it is in the bowler that makes the difference...

Posted by CoolCharlie on (February 11, 2013, 4:35 GMT)

I rate this pace attack equivalent to oz pace attack . Steyn is my favorite bowler and this guy is an all time great for me. you just take out steyn from this attack and it will loose half of its potency , believe me. I have not seen a bowler of this caliber since Akram. And to be such a nemesis under these days , its phenomenal. Its pretty awesome site to watch this guy ball in rhythm . Hats off to you. The other to reason why SA is so strong is cause of Kallis and Amla ... But after 4 years they wont be having Kallis or Steyn. So lets see ho long they rule .

Posted by wakaPAK on (February 11, 2013, 3:52 GMT)

Good observation Mr. Aakash! Always a treat to read your articles. It's the combination of them which makes it even more difficult for batsmen to play them. SA is just short of a spinner and they'd have to struggle a bit for wickets on spin-freindly tracks like we saw in the drawn series against Pakistan in UAE.

Posted by sasi on (February 11, 2013, 3:39 GMT)

Morkel despite all his promise has let ppl down. and i expect him to be replaced soon by De Lange. De Lange to me has the potential to be a hybrid of steyn and morkel. Bounce with swing and serious pace.

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Aakash ChopraClose
Aakash Chopra Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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