The old Aussie firm gets among the wickets again

Mudassar Nazar

December 18, 2001

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Nirala Sweets
When going gets tough, the tough get going! Australia were far superior to South Africa in every department of the first Test at Adelaide. The tourists competed well on the first day, but from then on the Aussies took complete control of the match. Claude Henderson, who had bowled extremely well on the first day, was inexplicably held back until Shane Warne and Damien Martyn were well into their stride. Shaun Pollock's captaincy in the whole game failed to impress me. Dare I say that when his team's morale was flagging, he was not able to inspire them?

Mudassar Nazar
Mudassar Nazar
Photo © CricInfo
One could feel the pressure when the Australian openers walked on to the field. They were tense and tentative. A fully fit Alan Donald would have tested them to the maximum. Unfortunately he is short of match practice, and had to miss this game. Pollock and Hayward started reasonably well. Hayward bowled with pace but had less control so the openers gradually asserted themselves. Pollock has lost a considerable amount of pace in the last twelve months and clearly was not as effective as one expects him to be. He also relies on outswing, and while it is dangerous for a right-handed batsman it is the reverse for left-handers. So both Hayden and Langer found it easier to handle the new ball. Ntini has looked below Test standard and was dispatched for three consecutive fours by Justin Langer when he came on to bowl. He never really recovered.

Shaun Pollock
Shaun Pollock
Photo © CricInfo
While Michael Slater is still struggling to find form in domestic cricket, Justin Langer is going from strength to strength. He is a confident young man, and most of the current Pakistan team will vouch for that. Being short, he likes playing square off the pitch and can handle the quick stuff without any problem. He puts a great price on his wicket and you could see he was outraged when finally dismissed just before close of play on the first day. He is an ideal player for a captain and his team, one who likes to go on and on until the job is finished. 2001 has been a most productive period for Matthew Hayden, and his partnership with Justin Langer has produced some brilliant results for their team. They have been the backbone of this Australian side because the middle order has not been firing on all cylinders.

Steve Waugh, though unlucky to be given out in the first innings, is struggling to gain form. He is far too good a player to miss out for long and South Africa will do well to remember it. I thought Damien Martyn was a class above the rest. His timing is perfect and his stance is well balanced. He reminds me so much of Greg Chappell. Nothing seems to bother him, like Steve Waugh he thrives under pressure and is equally at home against spin and pace. Like most outstanding Australian players he likes coming down the pitch to spinners, and he knows the art of batting with the late order batsmen and since he bats at number six it is a great advantage to have him in the team. It's a long time since Australia has won a Test match without a healthy contribution from Adam Gilchrist. Like Steve Waugh he is bound to score runs in the coming games.

Jacques Kallis
Jacques Kallis
Photo © CricInfo
It was a typical Adelade pitch, slow and low. South Africa should have batted better, particularly after the openers had given them a decent start. If they want to do well in this series they must promote Jacques Kallis to number three - in both innings he came in lower. He has a sound technique, can be aggressive, and likes to play long innings. The whole team can revolve around him. He is a fit young man so his bowling should not deter him too much.

Shane Warne troubled all the South Africans but was only able to do so when he bowled round the wicket. Admittedly, he spun the ball from that angle but that should have alarmed only the left-handers. Instead, Herschelle Gibbs played a horrendous shot when he charged Warne and was, rather embarrassingly, left stranded in the middle of the pitch. Kallis was out to a peach of a ball, McGrath hit him on the toe with an in-swinging yorker (beware Pakistani batsmen in September!) McKenzie and Boucher staged a rally, and in fact smashed the Australian bowlers when they took the second new ball.

Matthew Hayden
Matthew Hayden
Photo © AFP
I was really impressed with McKenzie. I watched him bat in a one-day game against India, where he repeatedly failed to pick up the googly from Sachin Tendulkar, but now he handled Shane Warne with aplomb. One cover driven four came straight out of Peter May's textbook. Once McKenzie was out, Australia quickly wrapped up the proceedings. Given that the ball always turns in Adelaide, it was amazing that Shane Warne hadn't taken five wickets in an innings there before.

Hayden and the rest of the Australian players were soon busy making life uncomfortable for South Africa. Instead of taking strength from their revival in the first innings, the Proteas looked down and out. Pollock looked increasingly forlorn and was unable to lift his team. He needed Alan Donald on the field rather than sitting in the dressing room. Many a time we played Imran Khan and Wasim Akram when they were half fit, for their mere presence would lift the team, and they were a class above the rest.

Justin Langer
Justin Langer
Photo © AFP
Also, you just cannot win Test matches in Australia by playing too many all-rounders. In my opinion, it cost Pakistan the last series down under when we played Razzaq & Azhar in the test match at Brisbane, instead of playing an out-and-out fast bowler Waqar Younis. Lance Klusener has never batted well in Australia and his bowling on true pitches is somewhat pedestrian. In the next game, I would rather play Donald and Elworthy in place of Klusener and Ntini. None of the bowlers had enough penetration, and thus were easy pickings for the Aussies who just piled on further miseries.

The game was virtually over when Gary Kirsten was out to the last ball of fourth day's play. Kirsten is well capable of batting for hours and his dismissal was crucial, but even their hardest critics could not have imagined South Africa giving in so meekly. Kallis battled on courageously while wickets fell all around him. For Australia, more importantly, the old firm was taking wickets once again. Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne had struggled against New Zealand but now they were back at their best. I fear they will continue to demonise the South African batsmen for the remainder of their tour.

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