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Marks out of ten for Australia following the 2011-12 tour of South Africa
November 22, 2011
Australia secured a drawn series with their victory in Johannesburg, a fine way to finish a tour that had more ups and downs than the Table Mountain cable car. The individual performances were mixed and ESPNcricinfo runs the rule over the 13 players Australia used during the series.
News : Australia to manage Cummins' workload
Analysis : Much to laud, much to lament
Analysis : Two Tests not enough for a marquee series
Players/Officials: Pat Cummins
Series/Tournaments: Australia tour of South Africa
The find of the tour for Australia. At 18, he was the country's second-youngest Test debutant of all time but any questions about his readiness for Test cricket were erased over five days in Johannesburg. The best bowler in both innings, he swung the ball and used his bouncers wisely, taking 6 for 79 in the second innings and seven for the game, and hit the winning runs. Man of the Match in his first Test, his future is bright.
In a two-Test series, Watson made two important contributions: a five-wicket haul in the loss in Cape Town and 88 in the first innings at the Wanderers. His influence could have been far greater had he not strained his hamstring while bowling his fourth over in Johannesburg. The Australians missed his swing and accuracy, but by combining with Phillip Hughes for a 174-run opening stand he ensured a first-innings lead for Australia. All the more impressive was that Watson batted without a runner - they have been abolished - and pushed through the pain barrier caused by his right hamstring. It was a partnership that might get overlooked after the events of the final two days, but it played an important role in the win.
The captain finished with scores of 2, 11 and 2, but the lasting memory of his South African series will be his wonderful 151 over the first two days at Newlands. Importantly, it was scored in tough conditions as the South African fast men moved the ball around in the air and off the pitch. It was Clarke's best international century. The second-innings capitulation for 47 and subsequent loss might take some of the shine off Clarke's innings, but in isolation it was a brilliant effort. Clarke rallied his troops well in Johannesburg and handled Cummins appropriately.
He won his chance at the Wanderers due to Shaun Marsh's back injury and he ensured he will be strongly considered for the next Test by making a calm and crucial 65, his first Test half-century, in the chase. Khawaja came to the crease in the first over, after Watson's duck, and immediately halted South Africa's momentum with a pair of boundaries, a classy on-drive and a well-placed cover-drive, off Vernon Philander. His partnership with Ricky Ponting was a key turning point.
Made only one decent contribution for the series, but it came just when the team - and he - needed it most. He walked to the crease on the fourth day in Johannesburg at 19 for 2, and Australia's target of 310 seemed out of reach. But Ponting battled hard and found some of his old touch. He missed the chance to go on and score a century but his 62 was a key factor in Australia's win. It has also increased his chances of holding his place, after his 8, 0 and 0 in the first three innings of the series put him under intense scrutiny.
Like Ponting, Hughes had only one score of note in the four innings. The Australians would no doubt like more consistency from him, but a century in the final Test in Sri Lanka and 88 in the first innings in Johannesburg is encouraging. It was a mini-flashback to the way he handled the South African fast bowlers in early 2009. More is needed from him, though he seems to be on the right path.
He was on track for a disastrous series with the bat until the final innings of the tour, when his 55 helped steer Australia to victory on the fifth afternoon. He played some fine drives and missed some flashes outside off, but all that mattered in the end was that he pushed Australia within touching distance of victory. But his two poor strokes to get out in Cape Town were irresponsible, especially in the second innings, when he left Australia at 18 for 6.
It is hard to judge a man on one innings of a series, but Marsh's effort on the opening day in Cape Town was impressive. In tough conditions, he was the only man to offer significant support to Clarke, his 44 confirming him as one of the most reliable batsmen in the side. Unfortunately, he hurt his back during the innings. Bravely, he batted at No.10 in Australia's second-innings disaster but was lbw to a ball that stayed low, and flew home before the second Test.
As an offspinner in a series dominated by the fast men, Lyon's workload was not enormous. In fact, he bowled only three overs in Cape Town, where he also top scored in Australia's second innings with 14. In Johannesburg, Lyon picked up two wickets in each innings, a good effort considering the conditions again favoured the fast bowlers.
Another man who flew home before the second Test, Harris took 4 for 33 in South Africa's first innings of the series, when they were dismissed for 96. He tried hard in the second innings without success, and remains a first-choice bowler when fit. It remains to be seen if that will be for the first match against New Zealand.
Coming off a remarkable tour of Sri Lanka, where he was Man of the Match in all three Tests, Hussey crashed back down to earth in South Africa. He scored one run in Cape Town, his dismissal in the second innings one he'd like to forget, and 20 in the first innings at the Wanderers. However, his 39 in the chase in Johannesburg gave Australia hope, before Haddin, Johnson and Cummins took them home. Overall a disappointing tour, but he remains one of the first picked in Australia's side.
Picked up four wickets at 51.25 across the two Tests and while he worked hard, he was not nearly as threatening as Cummins. Siddle will be one of the men waiting to see if he retains his place for the opening Test of the home summer.
Must surely be out of chances, if not now then soon. Johnson scored useful runs in both innings at the Wanderers - his unbeaten 40 was a key reason Australia won the match. But he is in the side to take wickets, and a series tally of 3 for 255 was inadequate. He changed his run-up halfway through the Johannesburg Test, a sign of his uncertainty, and is the man most under pressure leading in to the New Zealand series.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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