March 7, 2014

The Warner effect, and Johnson v Steyn

A look at the key aspects that ensured a 2-1 series result for Australia in South Africa
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It was billed as the clash of the top two teams in Test cricket, and the three Tests largely lived up to the hype. The pitches didn't always behave the way they were expected to, with Port Elizabeth and Cape Town both making the bowlers toil extremely hard for wickets, but the bowling quality of both sides ensured that in each Test there was one team that was able to overcome the conditions and force a result.

In the end, South Africa were only 27 balls from ensuring a drawn series, but the overall numbers for the series clearly show that Australia were the better team. They scored more runs and hundreds, took more wickets, and forced the pace of the game more often than the hosts did. South Africa were terribly unlucky with fitness issues, especially those relating to their premier fast bowler, but Australia overcame the disadvantage of playing overseas, and ultimately showed plenty of resilience to seal the series victory, and with it the No. 2 ranking in Tests.

Here are some of the key factors that turned out to be the difference between the two teams.

David Warner
This series was expected to be an extremely tough one for batsmen - especially openers - with each team boasting a fine array of fast bowlers, in conditions which were expected to assist them. Three of the four openers who played more than one Test at the top of the order averaged less than 31 in the series: Chris Rogers scored a fine century in Port Elizabeth but scored only 74 in his other five innings; Alviro Petersen aggregated 65 from four innings, while Graeme Smith had a forgettable farewell series, eking out 45 runs from six innings.

In the midst of all this, David Warner had one of the finest three-Test series ever by an Australian opener, scoring 543 runs at 90.50, with three centuries, including one in the first innings of the Cape Town Test. Only Matthew Hayden, who made 549 in India in 2000-01, has made more in a three-match series for Australia. Admittedly he had some luck, but he made it count, and was almost always fluent, assured and aggressive at the crease. His strike rate of 86.74 further ensured that when he was making runs, he was always getting them quickly, which moved the game forward and put South Africa on the defensive.

Both teams had a couple of middle-order batsmen who stood firm and averaged more than 50 - AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla for South Africa, Steven Smith and Michael Clarke for Australia - while there wasn't too much difference between the lower orders either. Thus, Warner was largely the reason why Australia's average runs per wicket was about 12 more than South Africa's.

Australia and South Africa in the 3-Test series
Team Runs scored Wkts lost Bat ave Run rate 100s/ 50s
Australia 1946 46 42.30 3.81 7/ 4
South Africa 1651 55 30.01 2.98 3/ 6
Position-wise break-up of batting averages for both teams
  Australia South Africa
  Runs Average 100s/ 50s Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Openers 724 60.33 4/ 2 209 17.41 0/ 2
Nos. 3-7 965 40.20 3/ 2 1066 38.07 3/ 3
Nos. 8-11 150 15.00 0/ 0 274 18.26 0/ 1

Warner's presence at the top of the order also had a large hand to play in ensuring that Australia's average partnership for the top two wickets were 56 and 69, with six partnerships exceeding 50. Of the ten highest partnerships for Australia in the series, eight involved Warner, which indicates just how influential he was to Australia's batting display.

For South Africa, on the other hand, the top two wickets averaged about 11 runs per partnership, which means on average the team was two down for about 22. The partnerships for the first wicket read thus: 11, 6, 10, 20, 7, 12; and for the second wicket: 4, 6, 1, 22, 35, 0. South Africa's average stand for the first two wickets was 11.16, the second-lowest ever in their Test history (with a cut-off of ten partnerships) and the lowest in more than 100 years - their worst was in 1912, when the first two wickets averaged 10.33 per partnership in England. The middle order, led by de Villiers and Amla, helped resurrect the innings, but the difference in partnership runs for the top two wickets was a key factor, which again highlights Warner's role in the series.

Average partnerships for each wicket for Australia and South Africa
  Australia South Africa
Wicket Inngs Ave stand 100/ 50 p'ships Inngs Ave stand 100/ 50 p'ships
1 6 56.16 2/ 1 6 11.00 0/ 0
2 6 68.67 1/ 2 6 11.33 0/ 0
3 6 37.00 0/ 2 6 47.16 1/ 2
4 6 52.00 1/ 0 6 43.33 0/ 3
5 5 72.00 1/ 1 6 36.67 0/ 2
6 5 16.25 0/ 0 6 54.00 1/ 0
7 4 21.75 0/ 0 5 37.20 0/ 1
8 4 32.33 0/ 0 5 35.80 0/ 1
9 3 3.00 0/ 0 5 16.40 0/ 0
10 2 15.00 0/ 0 5 7.40 0/ 0

The pace contest
This series was always going to be a battle between the two pace attacks, and while South Africa had the better of the exchanges in Port Elizabeth, Australia won the overall contest: their fast bowlers averaged 27.42, while South Africa's conceded almost 42 runs per wicket. The difference in averages wasn't as much between the spinners of the two teams, but Australia's slow bowlers - led by Nathan Lyon - certainly gave the captain more control, going at only 2.59 per over, while South Africa's slow bowlers conceded almost four per over.

Pace and spin for the two teams in the series
  Wickets Average Strike rate Econ rate
Aus pace 42 27.42 55.48 2.96
SA pace 32 41.84 69.84 3.59
Aus spin 11 38.90 89.91 2.59
SA spin 12 45.00 69.08 3.90

Johnson v Steyn
Steyn was clearly far from his best in two out of three Tests, and absolutely unstoppable in Port Elizabeth when he was fully fit. However, over the entire series Johnson bested him, taking 22 wickets at 17.36, to Steyn's 12 at 26.41.

After the Centurion Test, there was a suggestion from Smith that Johnson tended to be more effective against the tail than against top-order batsmen, but in this series Johnson took plenty of top-order wickets too - 17 of them, at 17.47.

Johnson v Steyn in the series
  Wickets Average Strike rate Econ rate
Mitchell Johnson 22 17.36 34.4 3.02
Dale Steyn 12 26.41 44.7 3.54
Johnson v SA top 7 17 17.47 35.8 2.93
Steyn v Aus top 7 9 30.00 52.2 3.44

Johnson was dominant against several South African batsmen in this series. He dismissed de Villiers and Smith four times each, with Smith being out four times in just 13 balls. Petersen fell three times scoring 15 runs off him. The only South African batsman who fared well against Johnson was Amla, who scored 63 off 128 balls and was dismissed once.

Steyn was dominant against Clarke and Haddin - though he didn't bowl much to them - but was clearly second best against the best batsman of the series: Warner scored 117 runs off Steyn at well over a run a ball, and was dismissed once.

Johnson v South African batsmen
Batsman Runs Balls Dismissals Average
AB de Villiers 77 154 4 19.25
Graeme Smith 17 13 4 4.25
Alviro Petersen 15 47 3 5.00
Hashim Amla 63 128 1 63.00
Steyn v Australian batsmen
Batsman Runs Balls Dismissals Average
Michael Clarke 7 12 2 3.50
Brad Haddin 1 17 2 0.50
Chris Rogers 49 98 2 24.50
David Warner 117 94 1 117.00

The support act
Apart from Johnson trumping Steyn, what also influenced the series result were the stats of the other fast bowlers in the two line-ups. Ryan Harris was well below par in the first two Tests, while Peter Siddle was dropped after taking five wickets in two Tests, but Harris played a key role in Cape Town, taking seven wickets in the match. Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, on the other hand, managed only a combined haul of 13 wickets in three Tests. Morkel bowled better than his figures of 6 for 381 suggest, but his inability to mix the fierce short stuff with the pitched-up deliveries meant batsmen were struck plenty of body blows off his bowling, but he didn't actually pick up too many wickets.

Philander had his first poor home series too as a bowler, though he was more than handy with the bat and actually finished with the highest batting average among South African batsmen. Before this series, he had taken 62 wickets in ten home Tests at an average of 15.24 and an economy rate of 2.70; here, his seven wickets cost him 51.71 each, at an economy rate of 3.70 - he offered neither wicket-taking penetration, nor control over runs conceded. Australia's fast bowlers offered more control even when they weren't taking wickets. As mentioned earlier, injuries at key moments severely hampered South Africa, but Australia were good enough to take advantage of those injuries, and eventually seal the series.

The fast-bowling support act for both teams
  Wickets Average Strike rate Econ rate
Harris+Siddle+Pattinson 19 38.42 77.05 2.99
Philander+Morkel 13 57.15 93.00 3.68

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on March 17, 2014, 11:55 GMT

    Its funny how Graeme Smith thought Johnson was only effective against the lower order batsmen, considering Johnson got him out 4 times. I guess Graeme Smith considers himself a lower order batsmen.

  • No.444 on March 12, 2014, 9:12 GMT

    @Marktc Agreed 100%, but it's swings and roundabouts and that big wheel always turns. If the Aussies hadn't lost their bowlers last time SA were there, we may not have won have the series. The Aussies were saying the same thing you are after that series. I suppose life is fair after all. It would be awesome to see these two teams at full strength more often as they produce great test cricket, and there would be far less speculation on all of our parts with all the ifs and buts.

  • Marktc on March 12, 2014, 6:28 GMT

    This is where stats do not tell the entire story. Steyn was sick the first test and injured the second. Warner's success was mostly because of SA dropping him so many times. Granted he made the most of his lives, but his scores were due to bad play in essence. It would have been a great series if SA had all it's players well for the duration of the series..

  • Meety on March 11, 2014, 3:37 GMT

    @ No.444 on (March 10, 2014, 13:34 GMT) - I used the McGarth analogy as an example. MJ has a greater S/Rate than Dennis Lillee too. No one thinks about McGraths average - they remember a very durable pace bowler (slower end of that scale) who was amazingly accurate & just did enough to keep the batsmen guessing. I agree that the fastest by years is a selective stat - no doubts there, but what about the Strike Rate of bowlers who have played 40 tests? MJ is brilliant. the reality is - ever since cricinfo built the stat analysis - averages have become less of a benchmark compared to 20 or 30 yrs ago. Averages are almost irrelevant in short forms. You can't dismiss MJ - on the grounds of "... bowl well and influence games in the UAE and the sub continent and for the next year or two..." - then go on to say Harris is a better bowler - when he has never done any of that either (except a few tests in SL).

  • No.444 on March 10, 2014, 13:34 GMT

    @Meety: The reason why most of the cricketing world regard McGrath as a great is because of his average and total number of wickets. No one bothers about his not so impressive strike rate because its of lesser importance. You cannot for one moment be talking MJ and McGrath in the same context. Maybe Steyn and McGrath in a few years, but don't denigrate McGrath. Harris has a better strike rate and is a far better bowler (with knees) than MJ. The fastest by number of years is selective stats - not everyone plays a million tests a year like the Aussies. He's also taken over 50 of his wickets in this purple patch of 3 months. This indicates that he's by far the best around at the moment, but form is temporary...McGrath is class.

  • Meety on March 10, 2014, 8:02 GMT

    @BrisVegan on (March 8, 2014, 1:29 GMT) - dont be too sure that UAE has flat pitches. That is not always the case. A great Oz side rolled Pakistan for 50-odd twice in a test series there, & the England v Paki series saw runs scored were at a premium. That is mixed with some pitches that if you were a pace bowler - you'd just about take up Baseball! So yes possibly will be some dull pitches, but there could be some less prepared pitches too. @No.444 on (March 10, 2014, 6:19 GMT) - garbage! His job has never been to be a stock/pressure bowler - he is there for dynamic results. A career strike rate of 50 is superior to McGrath. So he is not an average bowler in a purple patch - he is a mercurial bowler who at times is among the greatest of all time. 16th fastest bowler to 250 wickets in Tests (matches). 5th fastest to 250 Test wickets (in terms of years). Only 5 players who have played 50 tests or more have a better Strike Rate. NOT AN AVERAGE BOWLER!!!!

  • No.444 on March 10, 2014, 6:19 GMT

    @BrisVegan No, the one "sub par" performance doesn't make MJ an average bowler. His career average makes him an average bowler. He's having a purple patch. Every bowler has them, rises temporarily to the top, all the T20 fans get hyped up, then swiftly move on to the next big thing. Test cricket is slower and more enduring - more for the patient ones among us. We look through the purple patches and have a broader view of good and great bowlers. If he can bowl well and influence games in the UAE and the sub continent and for the next year or two, I will be the first to stand up and say I was wrong. Until then, MJ will just be an average bowler having a purple patch like thousands of others before him.

  • VarunAGVU on March 9, 2014, 7:13 GMT

    It was undoubtedly Warner, who was the difference between the two sides. The bowling differences are contentious considering the number of variables influencing them. Most importantly, it was only due to Warner that the SA bowling was made to look vulnerable. He not only scored quickly, he did that from the word go, unsettled the bowlers for his fellow batsmen to be relatively less troubled with the venom of a usual SA attack. If it wasn't for Warner, the series would definitely not have gone this way. Australia would never have posted such huge totals, let alone at such a rate. The partnerships would not have been as bulky either. All praise to Warner. A great series.

  • BrisVegan on March 8, 2014, 22:21 GMT

    @Ryan - Over the last 12 months:

    Johnson: 9 tests (18 innings), 59 wickets @ 16.25, SR 33.9, BB 7/40 Steyn: 7 tests (14 innings), 30 wickets @ 27.00, SR 53.1, BB 6/100

    Johnson wickets per test: 6.55 Steyn wickets per test: 4.29

    Johnson's 9 tests include Delhi where he went 0/60, then Ashes at home then this SAf series (played: 5 home, 4 away).

    Steyn's 7 tests include 2 matches against PAK in UAE, 2 tests vs India at home (incl. one match haul of 1/165) and then this SAf series (played: 5 home, 2 away).

  • Hello13 on March 8, 2014, 19:49 GMT

    A man who attacks an opponent from behind should not be celebrated. It's a cowardly thing to do.

  • on March 17, 2014, 11:55 GMT

    Its funny how Graeme Smith thought Johnson was only effective against the lower order batsmen, considering Johnson got him out 4 times. I guess Graeme Smith considers himself a lower order batsmen.

  • No.444 on March 12, 2014, 9:12 GMT

    @Marktc Agreed 100%, but it's swings and roundabouts and that big wheel always turns. If the Aussies hadn't lost their bowlers last time SA were there, we may not have won have the series. The Aussies were saying the same thing you are after that series. I suppose life is fair after all. It would be awesome to see these two teams at full strength more often as they produce great test cricket, and there would be far less speculation on all of our parts with all the ifs and buts.

  • Marktc on March 12, 2014, 6:28 GMT

    This is where stats do not tell the entire story. Steyn was sick the first test and injured the second. Warner's success was mostly because of SA dropping him so many times. Granted he made the most of his lives, but his scores were due to bad play in essence. It would have been a great series if SA had all it's players well for the duration of the series..

  • Meety on March 11, 2014, 3:37 GMT

    @ No.444 on (March 10, 2014, 13:34 GMT) - I used the McGarth analogy as an example. MJ has a greater S/Rate than Dennis Lillee too. No one thinks about McGraths average - they remember a very durable pace bowler (slower end of that scale) who was amazingly accurate & just did enough to keep the batsmen guessing. I agree that the fastest by years is a selective stat - no doubts there, but what about the Strike Rate of bowlers who have played 40 tests? MJ is brilliant. the reality is - ever since cricinfo built the stat analysis - averages have become less of a benchmark compared to 20 or 30 yrs ago. Averages are almost irrelevant in short forms. You can't dismiss MJ - on the grounds of "... bowl well and influence games in the UAE and the sub continent and for the next year or two..." - then go on to say Harris is a better bowler - when he has never done any of that either (except a few tests in SL).

  • No.444 on March 10, 2014, 13:34 GMT

    @Meety: The reason why most of the cricketing world regard McGrath as a great is because of his average and total number of wickets. No one bothers about his not so impressive strike rate because its of lesser importance. You cannot for one moment be talking MJ and McGrath in the same context. Maybe Steyn and McGrath in a few years, but don't denigrate McGrath. Harris has a better strike rate and is a far better bowler (with knees) than MJ. The fastest by number of years is selective stats - not everyone plays a million tests a year like the Aussies. He's also taken over 50 of his wickets in this purple patch of 3 months. This indicates that he's by far the best around at the moment, but form is temporary...McGrath is class.

  • Meety on March 10, 2014, 8:02 GMT

    @BrisVegan on (March 8, 2014, 1:29 GMT) - dont be too sure that UAE has flat pitches. That is not always the case. A great Oz side rolled Pakistan for 50-odd twice in a test series there, & the England v Paki series saw runs scored were at a premium. That is mixed with some pitches that if you were a pace bowler - you'd just about take up Baseball! So yes possibly will be some dull pitches, but there could be some less prepared pitches too. @No.444 on (March 10, 2014, 6:19 GMT) - garbage! His job has never been to be a stock/pressure bowler - he is there for dynamic results. A career strike rate of 50 is superior to McGrath. So he is not an average bowler in a purple patch - he is a mercurial bowler who at times is among the greatest of all time. 16th fastest bowler to 250 wickets in Tests (matches). 5th fastest to 250 Test wickets (in terms of years). Only 5 players who have played 50 tests or more have a better Strike Rate. NOT AN AVERAGE BOWLER!!!!

  • No.444 on March 10, 2014, 6:19 GMT

    @BrisVegan No, the one "sub par" performance doesn't make MJ an average bowler. His career average makes him an average bowler. He's having a purple patch. Every bowler has them, rises temporarily to the top, all the T20 fans get hyped up, then swiftly move on to the next big thing. Test cricket is slower and more enduring - more for the patient ones among us. We look through the purple patches and have a broader view of good and great bowlers. If he can bowl well and influence games in the UAE and the sub continent and for the next year or two, I will be the first to stand up and say I was wrong. Until then, MJ will just be an average bowler having a purple patch like thousands of others before him.

  • VarunAGVU on March 9, 2014, 7:13 GMT

    It was undoubtedly Warner, who was the difference between the two sides. The bowling differences are contentious considering the number of variables influencing them. Most importantly, it was only due to Warner that the SA bowling was made to look vulnerable. He not only scored quickly, he did that from the word go, unsettled the bowlers for his fellow batsmen to be relatively less troubled with the venom of a usual SA attack. If it wasn't for Warner, the series would definitely not have gone this way. Australia would never have posted such huge totals, let alone at such a rate. The partnerships would not have been as bulky either. All praise to Warner. A great series.

  • BrisVegan on March 8, 2014, 22:21 GMT

    @Ryan - Over the last 12 months:

    Johnson: 9 tests (18 innings), 59 wickets @ 16.25, SR 33.9, BB 7/40 Steyn: 7 tests (14 innings), 30 wickets @ 27.00, SR 53.1, BB 6/100

    Johnson wickets per test: 6.55 Steyn wickets per test: 4.29

    Johnson's 9 tests include Delhi where he went 0/60, then Ashes at home then this SAf series (played: 5 home, 4 away).

    Steyn's 7 tests include 2 matches against PAK in UAE, 2 tests vs India at home (incl. one match haul of 1/165) and then this SAf series (played: 5 home, 2 away).

  • Hello13 on March 8, 2014, 19:49 GMT

    A man who attacks an opponent from behind should not be celebrated. It's a cowardly thing to do.

  • Hello13 on March 8, 2014, 19:46 GMT

    Swann today has again said how Warner is a very average individual. His kind of behaviour shouldn't be tolerated on a cricket field. Ban him and the rest of the Australians

  • Moppa on March 8, 2014, 9:09 GMT

    @InsideHedge, interesting points about Morkel. Guess what he has in common with Ishant and Harmison? A tendency to pitch too short, and I don't mean too many bouncers, I mean a stock ball length that is too short, perhaps around that 8 metre length. A ball of this length will never hit the stumps, ruling out bowled and lbw. This also means a confident batsman should be able to leave the ball on length if he feels in danger of nicking behind. Basically, the approach can produce some 'snorting' rising deliveries, but greatly reduces the prospects of taking a wicket. Bowlers with world class bowling averages (less than 24 - think Ambrose, Akram, McGrath, Marshall, Steyn, Harris, Lillee) all tend to pitch full with a hint of movement and a dangerous (occasional) bouncer. Keeps the batsman guessing and makes him work to survive every ball.

  • on March 8, 2014, 8:16 GMT

    It is not quite fair to make all these comparison's between Johnson and Steyn when you only look at a 3-match series where Steyn was sick in the first test and injured in the third. How about a comparison over the past year rather?

  • AllanGavaskar on March 8, 2014, 6:19 GMT

    It's interesting hearing comments to the effect that MJ is one-dimensional in his means of taking wickets. Firstly, the people who make these comments watch highlights packages, not games. There are many examples of his wickets taken by means of subtle plans, many on lifeless pitches - in fact too many to mention. Secondly, he is a STRIKE bowler. His ability to psychologically dominate all batsmen in the world (except ABdV and Hashim Amla and a few others perhaps) is what has brought extreme pace bowling back to life. This genuine fast bowler resurgence in is the face of lighter massive kiln-dried bats with edges half as wide as the face, closer boundaries and the ubiquitous T-20 humiliations of bowlers across the globe. All of these things have swayed the pendulum towards batsmen. Now Mitch and others have brought back balance. Morkel is following suit. He just needs to remember the use of the sublime yorker, after tenderising a batsmen, and he too can do what Mitch does!

  • sergio11 on March 8, 2014, 5:41 GMT

    @MaruthuDelft...u dont like indian players dont u?? why u want to bring a comparison to Kholi here??Warner and Kholi have similar Test stats...warner played 30 test to Kholi's 24..both are exiting players..and both got lot to improve on there game..Warner is a failure in turing tracks..Likewise Kholi need to control him aggression...he is now a complusory hooker..which is unnnecessary..and Kholi is not converting his tons to a really big ton..his highest score in test is just 119..and Warners odi record is just terrible.. bt both at the end of there career will surely will be one of the greatest played for there respective country for sure...

  • CustomKid on March 8, 2014, 1:44 GMT

    @chris Howard - yeah ok that is why he got 4/30 in the first innings of the 3rd test as well as 3/90 off 38 overs in the second dig. You're obviously an astute follower and judge of the game. That pitch in Cape Town was dead flat yet Mitch still took 7 for the game. You're not an Aussie, your a pretender or one of those sad key board warriors.

    Give some credit where credit is due. Rather than rubbishing the national team that has just nailed the number one side in their own back yard, give them some praise for a fantastic team performance. Amazing every bowler bowled on the same pitch yet Mitch stands out like a beacon with his figures.

    You're not an AUSSIE and if you are you're a very sad one who should perhaps look to relocate somewhere else. Maybe go support that world beater jimmy Anderson and co?

  • BrisVegan on March 8, 2014, 1:29 GMT

    All those saying Johnson only does well on pitches that suit him clearly did not witness his bowling in the Ashes, particularly in Adelaide which was arguably his best bowling of the series, and the pitch that suited him the least.

    Couple that with his brilliant bowling at times on the subcontinent in ODIs in recent years. The "new" test match bowler Johnson should do better in Tests over there as well if he can keep up his pace and form.

    He has one sub-par test in this series and all of a sudden he's an ordinary bowler.. give me a break. I'm looking forward to his bowling on the flattest pitches on Earth in the UAE against Pakistan later this year, if the ball is swinging he'll be amongst the wickets don't worry.

    Failing that.. there's always the India tour down-under 2014/15. I hope the Indian batsmen are preparing already..

  • on March 7, 2014, 23:07 GMT

    What statistics don't show is how Warner protected other batsman; for example when Clarke was getting peppered by short balls in the third test Warner always seem to be getting him off strike to allow him time to get used to the pace of the game. Now, admittedly, I didn't see every ball being bowled as I live in AUS and the game finished at 2am(?), I have to get up at 5am for work! But how many other batters did Warner do this to? What Warner did can never be measured in statistics but it makes a massive difference to the game.

  • on March 7, 2014, 19:56 GMT

    It seems that most have forgotten that Philander was pretty ineffective on the tour to Australia. Kleiveldt was pathetic though.

  • GrindAR on March 7, 2014, 18:56 GMT

    Well, again SA's fielding was pathetic for their standards.... seriously.

    Bowling, the dangerous Morne Morkel become ordinary.. by choice or what? He is the one the team relies on to bring in variations... which he clearly failed to do...

    The difference between the two teams and their results are these,

    1. SA's missed catches and freely awarded runs 2. Highly dependent support bowlers did not exist effectively

    These two are fully out of character of SA's blood. Made Aussies more dominant than they actually are, atleast against SA. Smith made a wise call sensing everyone in his team wanted a change in leadership... in a way right thing to expect from this latest generation... who like to have the leader of their generation.

    It is going to be one year patch that SA has to endure to get back to their duties as they are known for.

  • on March 7, 2014, 16:35 GMT

    I am intrigued that no one has commented on the performance (or lack of) Morne Morkel. In my view he was pathetic, he did not help his side one bit. 95% of the balls he bowled could be safely ignored by the batsmen. Apart from that little spell to Clarke in the 3rd test he did very little to threaten the batsmen. He was constantly too short, too wayward to threaten the batsmen, he must force the batsman to play else he is a detriment to his fellow fast bowlers as he is simply there to take the shine off the new ball thus aiding the opposition. If he does not improve very quickly, they need to sit him down permanently. What a great disappointment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

  • thirdmanboundary on March 7, 2014, 15:51 GMT

    Warner was amazing. But let's not forget that SA dropped him 5 times in the first 2 tests. If they'd done their catching right and he'd gone for low scores it would have dented his confidence and his impact. I give him credit: he's like Amla, if you drop him he makes you pay. One of my biggest concerns for SA: the loss of Smith and Kallis as first and 2nd slip, both world class catchers. Can't have a pace-based attack and inexperienced slips. Generally, SA fielding is sliding downhill under Domingo.

  • cricket-india on March 7, 2014, 14:46 GMT

    it's easy to say SA were unlucky with fitness issues but that they chose to pick a suspct steyn rather than another fully fit fast bowler only proves what has been suspected all along about their bench strength and their confidence in it. when u play, u play; no excuses. steyn got an 8 in firdose moonda's ratings for the series but he deserved no more than 6, for at the end of the day it's results that count. either the mgmt should not have played him when he was clearly only half-fit, or he shoud have had the sense to opt out. steyn's non availability meant a heavy workload on the other bowlers, what with an all-seam attack and no full-time spinner to take the load off, and it definitely affetced their output. now wait till (and you heard it here first) davey warner comes out with a statement saying something like we had already exposed philander and now even steyn stands exposed on his own home turf. he'll prolly cop another fine but his point will have been made!!

  • Rally_Windies on March 7, 2014, 13:42 GMT

    look here, Warner credits Chanderpaul's advice for his adaptation to Test Cricket. Kholi credits Gayle's advice for his success in ODI ..

    yet, Gibson does not want any WI youths to take advice from either one of them, and Gibson even has problems with Chanderpaul's batting !

    why, he is given more authority over the young batsmen that Gayle and Chanderpaul is bemusing ..

    Do the WI board members have any clue what they are doing ? I can't blame Gibson, I have to blame the people who gave him the power !

  • Chris_Howard on March 7, 2014, 12:45 GMT

    I'm, Aussie and it's ridiculous to compare Steyn and Johnson in this series, given Steyn's injuries an illness. (And don't mention Harris - he had a joint injury. Much easier to carry a joint injury than a muscle injury like Steyn had in the third)

    Would like to see how Aussies would have gone if Johnson was as limited in availability as Steyn was.

    Johnson is a one-trick wonder too, as we saw in the second Test when conditions didn't suit his party trick (brutal bowling spitting off the pitch at the body).

    Steyn has proved himself in all conditions, and if fully fit, would have decimated Aussies in all three Tests.

  • CM1000 on March 7, 2014, 12:37 GMT

    Another telling stat not specifically mentioned in this article (but noted in one of the tables) - Australia had five century partnerships in the series to South Africa's two.

    South Africa got very close to saving Newlands and the series, but 1-1 would have been no fair indication of the difference between the sides. 2-1 was exactly reflective of the difference in this series.

    However, what a huge advantage batting first is when the pitch has been prepared to be very flat. I bet if South Africa knew they would lose the toss at Newlands they would have made sure that there was a lot more in it for the bowlers, as there always should be. On that pitch, and with half a day lost to rain, Australia did extremely well to force a result. No other team could have beaten South Africa in those conditions - it took a very attacking side prepared to take risks and score at nearly 4 an over in their first innings and more than 5 an over in their second innings to win. Outstanding cricket.

  • gujratwalla on March 7, 2014, 11:48 GMT

    Hmm...Yes Stastics show Johnson and Warner were good...yes they were very good.Cricketers are human after all.Steyn no less! But still i raye him better than Johnson for the simple fact that he can adopt to any kind of a pitch.Harris bowled well to but Philander is not losing any of his skill! He is too talented a bowler not to come back fully aware of his previous failings,

  • on March 7, 2014, 11:42 GMT

    Aussies attack was far better than SA. But both teams lack quality spinner. Lyon is good but not high quality spinner whereas Africans dont even have a good spinner. Imran Tahir should have played 2 of 3 tests. Now with Smith gone I hope the new captain gives Tahir the required confidence to bowl in tests.

  • Ozcricketwriter on March 7, 2014, 11:06 GMT

    Philander has been found out and will stop being the menace he once was. Expect him to fall down the bowling rankings quickly. And become known as a batsman who bowls a bit.

  • foozball on March 7, 2014, 10:52 GMT

    @StarveTheLizard, interesting to hear about Philander's shoulder. Of course we only heard about Trott's pre-series issues after Johnson had sent him packing. Putting the two together, it seems perhaps that both figured they'd be able to go through the motions against Australia and go ok.

    Guess they both know better now.

  • Mervo on March 7, 2014, 10:10 GMT

    There is no debate - Australia had the best attack in this series. Steyn was injured in the last test, but his performances lastly have not been those of the past. No one can sustain that. Johnson was THE difference. Warner had not problem with Steyn as the stats show and Philander was hopeless on his own tracks. I find that hard to understand. Have batsmen worked him out?

  • AussiePhoenix on March 7, 2014, 9:55 GMT

    Looking through stats is always fascinating, opening doors, offering insights, and at times, optical illusions. For instance the argument Steyn was sick and injured for two tests doesn't count for anything. Because Harris (our real best bowler despite MJ's shock tactics), was equally out of sorts, for all three tests. Team management had only counted on 8 overs from him in the last innings, he nearly bowled 30! The guy should have been in surgery already, did he complain about being sick or injured? No, he found a way to take crucial wickets and win the match. Likewise saying Warner alone was the difference in the batting misses the bigger picture. Sure he batted exceptionally well, consistently across three tests. But a straight comparison to SA openers isn't fair. In that partly the reason for their demise was sensational opening bowling - intense, disciplined and tight. Where as I got the feeling SA bowlers were waiting for our guys to make mistakes. Really, it was no contest.

  • StarveTheLizard on March 7, 2014, 9:53 GMT

    I had read that Philander had a shoulder injury before the series. This hampered him and caused the disappointing stats. Still you wonder why he was picked in the first place if he has a bad shoulder.

    Mind you, Oz picked one-leg Harris. Look what that did for them.

  • MaruthuDelft on March 7, 2014, 9:43 GMT

    Warner is much better than Kohli.

  • UsmanMuhammad on March 7, 2014, 9:42 GMT

    Johnson is going to face extremely tough times when Aussies tour UAE playing Pakistan after T20 WC. Although I would prefer to see tracks conducive to fast bowling but knowing Misbah that's the last thing in world. I can see Australia struggle against quality spin bowling there.

    Johnson has a fear factor but he does not have variations or skills to make adjustments to flat tracks.

  • AllanGavaskar on March 7, 2014, 9:36 GMT

    Ryan Harris took 10 wickets at 31.8. This man was operating with neither knee functioning properly and also constantly in a great deal of pain. When Steyn had a "tummy upset", his problems paled into insignificance when compared to the pieces of bone and cartilage floating in the synovial fluid of Harris' knee. Harris won the series for Australia by taking the last two wickets of the third test, when barely able to walk. That shows true grit.

    If Steyn is the legend they say he is should have performed better in the first test, considering the wicket was a genuine fast bowler's paradise (Johnson got 12 wickets in that match).

    Granted, Steyn's routing of Australia in the second test with reverse swing was a phenomenal feat.

    Steyn's hamstring injury in the third test and his poor showing in the first test show that he is a mortal like so many other professional sportsman, and not without shortcomings of his own.

  • ModernUmpiresPlz on March 7, 2014, 8:54 GMT

    @keralite Yeah I'm still trying to figure out how Philander only bowled, what was it, 6 overs in that final innings? You'd think after all the crap Warner talked about him he would have demanded the ball and bowled, flat pitch or not, but now even SA fans are questioning what the deal was. Was it to protect his average? There don't seem to be a lot of plausible explanations when the option that did get used was to bowl Elgar and Duminy in tandem, not exactly the most potent attack SA has to offer, even with Steyn out. And he clearly wasn't injured as he was on the field and looked physically fine when he did eventually bowl.

  • Mike_Tyson on March 7, 2014, 8:33 GMT

    This series has finally put to rest the argument of which is the best bowling attack in the world. Aus attack has totally outbowled their SA counterparts. Fact.

  • Ragav999 on March 7, 2014, 8:18 GMT

    No contest between Aussie quicks and SA quicks. Aussies have absolutely thrashed the SA. It was strange to see Philander nowhere in the attack when Aussies were going all guns blazing in the 2nd innings of both the 1st Test and 3rd Test.

  • keralite on March 7, 2014, 8:03 GMT

    How can a number one bowler go for so many runs at poor economy rate against an average batting line up? Was it to protect to his average that he bowled only a handful of overs despite steyn gun being injured?

  • Protears on March 7, 2014, 7:28 GMT

    An overlooked factor was fielding, It was probably the most disappointing aspect for us this series, dropped to many and lost, catches win matches. In general Australia played like the form team. I would hardly sound the alarms or call it an emergency as SA cricket has depth of talent backed by a core of fine players. I dont' think to many changes for WI; Elgar, Alviro, Amla, Du Plessis, De Villier, Duminy, batsmen/allrounder, Philander, Abbott, Steyn, Morkel

  • PrasPunter on March 7, 2014, 7:01 GMT

    @mattp , no point talking about what has not happened. We can talk only about what actually has !! I can say that SA wouldn't have beaten Aus in 2008 had Shane Warne not retired !! Would you agree ?

  • on March 7, 2014, 7:00 GMT

    peter siddle dropped from 3rd test .. that was a poor and sad decision for aussies.. the man who did everything when india toured australia in 2011-12.. the man who shouldered the attavk when johnsob was underperforming a man of unusual records .. great cricketer and a workhorse ...

    al de best for him

  • mattp on March 7, 2014, 6:45 GMT

    Steyne was sick for 2 of the test matches. We saw what he could do when he is fit, in the 2nd test. Warner and fellow openers will not fare so well next time with a fit Dale Steyne. Simple as that.

  • stormy16 on March 7, 2014, 6:01 GMT

    The debate is over and despite what rankings say there is no doubt that as Clark said, Aus are the better attack! Even I didnt buy this, as a matter of fact I didnt buy anything Clark said before the Ashes, but the reality they arrived and they blew away SA in two tests. Not just beat SA but SA didnt get a look in and that's a serious achievement for Aus. If you take the last test, Aus declared in both innings where SA didnt reach 300 in either! That's just a huge gap there to even talk about a contest. Warner and Mitch were sensational while Vern and Steyn were dissappoitning. Yes Steyn had ONE great spell in the series and Morkel bowled may be TWO spells that yielded no wickets and Philander was no where to be seen. The debate is over, one needs to give credit where its due and Aus deserve plenty. They are back from no where and with not much it seems but certainly throwing the big punches again.

  • Cool_Jeeves on March 7, 2014, 5:29 GMT

    South African attack has definitely had some benefit from Morkel's intimidation. Often Morkel bowls the difficult spells, maintains pressure, and wickets go to Steyn. So while he is relatively ineffective as a wicket taker on an individual basis, this may not be the only way to look at him.

  • on March 7, 2014, 5:08 GMT

    Biggest number of the series for me was certainly Warner v Steyn. Remember that Hughes also did well against him before being dropped by nervous and scared coaches. (Nielsen and Arthur were the real reason Aus struggled for 5 yrs) Rogers also did well against him in the one innings where he weant for his shorts. Im just wondering if Steyn doesnt have a problem with attacking left handers. It probably upsets him a little bit - gets under his skin and thats enough to make him more playable.

  • InsideHedge on March 7, 2014, 4:49 GMT

    So JP Duminy is now the most effective spinner in SA, he's had more success than both Robin Peterson and Imran Tahir. The latter should never be picked again by SA. JP badly needed the runs he made in the 2nd Test otherwise he was clinging to his place due to his off spinners. As a batsman, he still has issues against an off spinner himself.

    Critical time for him because the left handed Quinton de Kock is now a certainty in the middle order for Tests, he may take the gloves and reprieve ABDV. Meanwhile, Alviro Petersen may get a few more lives now that Smith has retired. Petersen is good at scoring runs just as he looks to be dropped, I was surprised he didn't make any at Cape Town, he's a serial escapist.

  • InsideHedge on March 7, 2014, 4:42 GMT

    I've been saying for a while that Morkel is SA's equivalent of Steve Harmison or even Ishant Sharma. He gets a lot of backing from the coaches and captain but his numbers show him to be riding on Steyn's success.

    No doubt his intimidating bowling has been supportive of Steyn but Morkel lacks penetration. He needs bouncy wickets to be at his best, often does better in ODIs than in Tests. Outside SA, Morkel's numbers are well below par. He needs to work on his bowling beyond just bounce; once he loses a little pace in the future it will be curtains for his international career.

  • InsideHedge on March 7, 2014, 4:37 GMT

    Warner's domination of Steyn is the big surprise of the series. The Saffers should have held their catches against him.

  • on March 7, 2014, 3:46 GMT

    Wonderful analysis, and rightly said Tht difference was Warner. i hope amla grasps some batting technique from australians

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  • on March 7, 2014, 3:46 GMT

    Wonderful analysis, and rightly said Tht difference was Warner. i hope amla grasps some batting technique from australians

  • InsideHedge on March 7, 2014, 4:37 GMT

    Warner's domination of Steyn is the big surprise of the series. The Saffers should have held their catches against him.

  • InsideHedge on March 7, 2014, 4:42 GMT

    I've been saying for a while that Morkel is SA's equivalent of Steve Harmison or even Ishant Sharma. He gets a lot of backing from the coaches and captain but his numbers show him to be riding on Steyn's success.

    No doubt his intimidating bowling has been supportive of Steyn but Morkel lacks penetration. He needs bouncy wickets to be at his best, often does better in ODIs than in Tests. Outside SA, Morkel's numbers are well below par. He needs to work on his bowling beyond just bounce; once he loses a little pace in the future it will be curtains for his international career.

  • InsideHedge on March 7, 2014, 4:49 GMT

    So JP Duminy is now the most effective spinner in SA, he's had more success than both Robin Peterson and Imran Tahir. The latter should never be picked again by SA. JP badly needed the runs he made in the 2nd Test otherwise he was clinging to his place due to his off spinners. As a batsman, he still has issues against an off spinner himself.

    Critical time for him because the left handed Quinton de Kock is now a certainty in the middle order for Tests, he may take the gloves and reprieve ABDV. Meanwhile, Alviro Petersen may get a few more lives now that Smith has retired. Petersen is good at scoring runs just as he looks to be dropped, I was surprised he didn't make any at Cape Town, he's a serial escapist.

  • on March 7, 2014, 5:08 GMT

    Biggest number of the series for me was certainly Warner v Steyn. Remember that Hughes also did well against him before being dropped by nervous and scared coaches. (Nielsen and Arthur were the real reason Aus struggled for 5 yrs) Rogers also did well against him in the one innings where he weant for his shorts. Im just wondering if Steyn doesnt have a problem with attacking left handers. It probably upsets him a little bit - gets under his skin and thats enough to make him more playable.

  • Cool_Jeeves on March 7, 2014, 5:29 GMT

    South African attack has definitely had some benefit from Morkel's intimidation. Often Morkel bowls the difficult spells, maintains pressure, and wickets go to Steyn. So while he is relatively ineffective as a wicket taker on an individual basis, this may not be the only way to look at him.

  • stormy16 on March 7, 2014, 6:01 GMT

    The debate is over and despite what rankings say there is no doubt that as Clark said, Aus are the better attack! Even I didnt buy this, as a matter of fact I didnt buy anything Clark said before the Ashes, but the reality they arrived and they blew away SA in two tests. Not just beat SA but SA didnt get a look in and that's a serious achievement for Aus. If you take the last test, Aus declared in both innings where SA didnt reach 300 in either! That's just a huge gap there to even talk about a contest. Warner and Mitch were sensational while Vern and Steyn were dissappoitning. Yes Steyn had ONE great spell in the series and Morkel bowled may be TWO spells that yielded no wickets and Philander was no where to be seen. The debate is over, one needs to give credit where its due and Aus deserve plenty. They are back from no where and with not much it seems but certainly throwing the big punches again.

  • mattp on March 7, 2014, 6:45 GMT

    Steyne was sick for 2 of the test matches. We saw what he could do when he is fit, in the 2nd test. Warner and fellow openers will not fare so well next time with a fit Dale Steyne. Simple as that.

  • on March 7, 2014, 7:00 GMT

    peter siddle dropped from 3rd test .. that was a poor and sad decision for aussies.. the man who did everything when india toured australia in 2011-12.. the man who shouldered the attavk when johnsob was underperforming a man of unusual records .. great cricketer and a workhorse ...

    al de best for him

  • PrasPunter on March 7, 2014, 7:01 GMT

    @mattp , no point talking about what has not happened. We can talk only about what actually has !! I can say that SA wouldn't have beaten Aus in 2008 had Shane Warne not retired !! Would you agree ?