Australia in South Africa 2013-14 February 4, 2014

Clarke's brutish Pretoria welcome

Robbed of precious practice time in Potchefstroom, the Australia captain had a hair-raising net against the team's fast bowlers on damp pitch
  shares 50

With apologies to Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, Australia's Michael Clarke may not face tougher bowling all tour than he did on Tuesday. A hair-raising 30 balls in the nets on a dangerously damp and drying Centurion Park practice wicket ensured that Clarke's feet were moving and his blood pumping as he faced up to the combined might of the Australian pace attack, stretching out in their first notable spells of the trip to South Africa.

Aware of the danger posed by the pitch and adhering to the markers laid down by the bowling coach Craig McDermott, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Jackson Bird, James Pattinson and Moises Henriques all pursued a fullish length. Even so, they repeatedly hit the splice of Clarke's bat as they did so, with the odd shorter ball rearing up devilishly from the sort of surface Derek Underwood might once have delighted in.

There was little sense of something held back either, as a frustrating few days in waterlogged Potchefstroom had robbed the tourists of valuable preparation time. Clarke was as eager for a bat as his bowlers were to charge in, and their brief combat energised all who witnessed it. Certainly the Australian players were fascinated by the contest, the bowlers' glee matched by the batsmen's winces. The team physio Alex Kountouris and doctor Peter Brukner stood close by, just in case.

Pushing through their paces, familiar patterns emerged. Harris and Siddle were the most precise, Johnson appreciably the fastest, Pattinson and Bird the most in need of more bowling. Henriques surprised by extracting as much life out of the track as anyone, his trajectory digging the ball into the pitch while the others tended to kiss it a little more lightly at a higher pace. Of the sextet, only Harris kept his foot consistently behind the crease.

When Clarke decided he did not wish to risk any more, having worn a couple of blows, the difficulty of the net was emphasised by the next ball after he departed. The unflappable Chris Rogers was struck a prancing blow on the chest by a Harris delivery that climbed and seamed back at him, letting out an involuntary yelp before moving promptly across to the net being used by the spinner Nathan Lyon. No-one was about to question Rogers, and it was enough for Phillip Hughes and Shane Watson to turn on their heels and return to Centurion Park's indoor nets.

The remainder of the session had the pacemen bowling at unguarded stumps, as numerous batsmen tested themselves out against the spin of Lyon, his mentor John Davison and the eager David Warner, who has returned to leg spin after a year's flirtation with less beguiling medium pace. Alex Doolan was a notable absentee from the session due to a bout of flu, but he will not have done his chances any harm by missing a stint in the net Clarke had dared to tread.

Before the session, Harris had expressed the tourists' irritation at the weather that had robbed them of their one and only tour match before the first Test, but balanced that with hope for improving practice surfaces and the possibility of centre wicket training at Centurion ahead of the series opener on February 12.

"It'd be nice to get a couple of good net sessions in and be starting the game tomorrow, but that's the way it is. We have to deal with it," Harris said. "It hasn't been great, but everyone's dealt with it really well and got what they needed. As bowlers we were able to get a decent bowl in the nets down there one day, and a centre wicket.

"It helps, centre wicket - if you're not playing a game - is always better than training in the nets. As a bowler, you haven't got the normal cues that you get when you're out in the middle. There's no net posts, you can feel a bit enclosed in the nets. But hopefully over the next couple there's plans that we can get some center wicket and we can get out there as much as we can. I'm ready to go. If the game was today or tomorrow, I'd be ready to play."

After his brush with danger, so too would Clarke.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY MCC_Tie on | February 4, 2014, 16:30 GMT

    Should be an absolute cracker of a series. For me a massive amount rests on how well the Aus batsman cope. They were often in trouble against England who then promptly let them off the hook with Haddin batting them to safety. Should SA put big runs on the board, they have the bowlers to pressure Aus.

  • POSTED BY ModernUmpiresPlz on | February 7, 2014, 10:07 GMT

    @Jared It's not normal "net time" it's a wet pitch. Clarke is just crazy enough to go and have a bat, without even wearing a chest or arm guard for good measure. It's not really legitimate practice for a test match, nor can you do anything technical. At best it'll be an extra lesson for watching the ball, but even then when it's rearing up horribly off a length even that's not going to do you a lot of good. I'd think that one would consider not getting injured a victory under the circumstances.

  • POSTED BY on | February 6, 2014, 20:32 GMT

    I'm very concerned to hear about our batsmen chickening out of net time because the bowlers are too good. They're going to be playing the BEST bowling attack in the world by the ICC rankings. And if there's anyone in the Australia set up who can't afford to run away from even Moises Henriques, it's Phil Hughes.

  • POSTED BY Clavers on | February 6, 2014, 11:16 GMT

    Look at that photo -- no arm guard and no chest guard. No wonder he's playing like he's worried about getting hit.

  • POSTED BY on | February 6, 2014, 10:17 GMT

    An Australian journalist extolling the virtues of an Australian team in a net practice. The Aussie fast bowlers are so good not even their own batsmen want to face them. Sure! What a joke. If this is true, then Australia are in massive trouble. Their bowling line up may be aggressive but South Africa's is more accurate and offers greater variation. Prepare for another 45 all out.

  • POSTED BY on | February 6, 2014, 6:56 GMT

    SA can't afford to start sluggishly as we did against India. It will just give the Aussies the momentum they need. And that momentum is what destroyed England. We need to be ruthless from ball one. Bowl in the right areas. Make the batsmen play which we didn't do enough against India. And scoring wise, rotate the strike and keep our right/left hand combinations going. It's gonna be a wake up call without Kallis. Let's hope the new recruits can step up

  • POSTED BY Mitty2 on | February 6, 2014, 6:45 GMT

    @barnesy444, said it on Twitter. Also said that Doolan looked good - although I think on a different day. Stated that the best three quicks in the nets were the incumbent quicks, with Bird solid but Patto out of rhythm (which he has been for a while) yet slowly improving

  • POSTED BY Shaggy076 on | February 5, 2014, 21:23 GMT

    200ondebut; Have you heard the adage its better to remain silent and be considered a full than speak up and remove all doubt. Well fits you to a tee. What a waste of time posting that stupid saying. I guess in your eyes there are no world class players. And if no one can fit that bill, and there has to be a world class then obviously your standard is wrong. You must be an absolute champion player yourself if you don't consider anyone in this series world class. Smith, Amla, Steyn, Philander, AB Devilliers, Clarke, Haddin, Johnson and Harris are all world class. This series will feature the best 6 pace bowlers in the world.

  • POSTED BY Bernadino on | February 5, 2014, 14:13 GMT

    200ondebut--I'm thinking a much more lively series than Australia-England. Don't know who you've been watching when you say "neither side has any world class players." Dale Steyn and Mitchell Johnson for starters are world class bowlers. AB de Villiers, Amla and Clarke are clearly on a par with other batsmen around the world and Haddin is the best 'keeper-batsman (on recent form) at the present time. Based on current form, SA and Australia are probably the two best teams in the world right now, and NZ may not be far behind (especially in the shorter formats). "World class" means being able to play under varied conditions around the world, and not just at home on familiar wickets. So, this will be an interesting test for Australia to see whether they can translate their recent drubbing of England at home into a strong performance in SA.

  • POSTED BY 200ondebut on | February 5, 2014, 13:41 GMT

    I am guessing a dull boring draw of a series - neither side has any world class players.

  • POSTED BY MCC_Tie on | February 4, 2014, 16:30 GMT

    Should be an absolute cracker of a series. For me a massive amount rests on how well the Aus batsman cope. They were often in trouble against England who then promptly let them off the hook with Haddin batting them to safety. Should SA put big runs on the board, they have the bowlers to pressure Aus.

  • POSTED BY ModernUmpiresPlz on | February 7, 2014, 10:07 GMT

    @Jared It's not normal "net time" it's a wet pitch. Clarke is just crazy enough to go and have a bat, without even wearing a chest or arm guard for good measure. It's not really legitimate practice for a test match, nor can you do anything technical. At best it'll be an extra lesson for watching the ball, but even then when it's rearing up horribly off a length even that's not going to do you a lot of good. I'd think that one would consider not getting injured a victory under the circumstances.

  • POSTED BY on | February 6, 2014, 20:32 GMT

    I'm very concerned to hear about our batsmen chickening out of net time because the bowlers are too good. They're going to be playing the BEST bowling attack in the world by the ICC rankings. And if there's anyone in the Australia set up who can't afford to run away from even Moises Henriques, it's Phil Hughes.

  • POSTED BY Clavers on | February 6, 2014, 11:16 GMT

    Look at that photo -- no arm guard and no chest guard. No wonder he's playing like he's worried about getting hit.

  • POSTED BY on | February 6, 2014, 10:17 GMT

    An Australian journalist extolling the virtues of an Australian team in a net practice. The Aussie fast bowlers are so good not even their own batsmen want to face them. Sure! What a joke. If this is true, then Australia are in massive trouble. Their bowling line up may be aggressive but South Africa's is more accurate and offers greater variation. Prepare for another 45 all out.

  • POSTED BY on | February 6, 2014, 6:56 GMT

    SA can't afford to start sluggishly as we did against India. It will just give the Aussies the momentum they need. And that momentum is what destroyed England. We need to be ruthless from ball one. Bowl in the right areas. Make the batsmen play which we didn't do enough against India. And scoring wise, rotate the strike and keep our right/left hand combinations going. It's gonna be a wake up call without Kallis. Let's hope the new recruits can step up

  • POSTED BY Mitty2 on | February 6, 2014, 6:45 GMT

    @barnesy444, said it on Twitter. Also said that Doolan looked good - although I think on a different day. Stated that the best three quicks in the nets were the incumbent quicks, with Bird solid but Patto out of rhythm (which he has been for a while) yet slowly improving

  • POSTED BY Shaggy076 on | February 5, 2014, 21:23 GMT

    200ondebut; Have you heard the adage its better to remain silent and be considered a full than speak up and remove all doubt. Well fits you to a tee. What a waste of time posting that stupid saying. I guess in your eyes there are no world class players. And if no one can fit that bill, and there has to be a world class then obviously your standard is wrong. You must be an absolute champion player yourself if you don't consider anyone in this series world class. Smith, Amla, Steyn, Philander, AB Devilliers, Clarke, Haddin, Johnson and Harris are all world class. This series will feature the best 6 pace bowlers in the world.

  • POSTED BY Bernadino on | February 5, 2014, 14:13 GMT

    200ondebut--I'm thinking a much more lively series than Australia-England. Don't know who you've been watching when you say "neither side has any world class players." Dale Steyn and Mitchell Johnson for starters are world class bowlers. AB de Villiers, Amla and Clarke are clearly on a par with other batsmen around the world and Haddin is the best 'keeper-batsman (on recent form) at the present time. Based on current form, SA and Australia are probably the two best teams in the world right now, and NZ may not be far behind (especially in the shorter formats). "World class" means being able to play under varied conditions around the world, and not just at home on familiar wickets. So, this will be an interesting test for Australia to see whether they can translate their recent drubbing of England at home into a strong performance in SA.

  • POSTED BY 200ondebut on | February 5, 2014, 13:41 GMT

    I am guessing a dull boring draw of a series - neither side has any world class players.

  • POSTED BY Basil777 on | February 5, 2014, 13:19 GMT

    I understand why PUP has dubbed his bowling attack as the best in the world. He cant bat against; because his form has been bad of late.

    Different story with SA batsman and bowling; AUS will be lucky if the tests last the full 10 days

  • POSTED BY Barnesy4444 on | February 5, 2014, 12:53 GMT

    This is why test cricket is and will always be best. When was the last time anybody got excited about a 50 or 20 over game because of the bowlers?

  • POSTED BY Barnesy4444 on | February 5, 2014, 12:51 GMT

    Mitty2, I can't find the article where Jesse Hogan states Hughes was in the nets. But I believe it, he is a tough nut and will not pass up this opportunity. He has the ability to grind out ugly runs, which will be important in this series.

  • POSTED BY cricketvj on | February 5, 2014, 12:03 GMT

    To be honest with all the protection that batsmen have today, we should move back to uncovered pitches for test cricket and also unlimited amount of short pitch bowling.. That would make Tests more interesting, I am bored by tests and 1 days as its now who can score the most runs and contain the opposition batsman.

    2 bouncers an over makes a pace bowler predictable. Also this will answer questions raised my many on the greatness of players who played on uncovered pitches and may have not scored as profusely as the current bunch of batsman..

  • POSTED BY Andre117 on | February 5, 2014, 11:22 GMT

    Wow! This sounds more like a script for a new Avengers movie than a preparation for a cricket match. I can't imagine anyone giving a more Aussie-praising article. Unless there are injuries South Africa will miss one of their best batsman: Quinton de Kock. Has anyone noticed that he has flourished even with wickets constantly tumbling around him? He has done it numerous times for the Lions in T20 cricket but in his first stint against the "2nd best bowling attack in the world" according to Michael "Captain Australia" Clarke he did the same thing: scored runs with wickets tumbling at the other end. However, even without him and without Kallis our batsmen are more experienced in SA conditions and should handle the pace barrage better. My prediction: SA 2-0.

  • POSTED BY ModernUmpiresPlz on | February 5, 2014, 11:08 GMT

    @Fenny Clearly your comprehension skills aren't the best. The bowlers were aiming for a fullish length on a damp pitch (this means the ball is going to do A LOT) and from that fullish length, we get that photo. It's not a short ball, it's not a half tracker, it's probably not even a length delivery. It's a fuller length ball that is going over his head. If you think your bowlers are good enough to make that happen on an actual test match pitch you are absolutely dreaming. Analyzing his technique off that photo is stupidity at its finest.

  • POSTED BY Mitty2 on | February 5, 2014, 11:06 GMT

    Also Brettig, Jesse Hogan has said that Hughes was in the nets... Apparently he got peppered with bouncers and struggled initially but managed to not lose his wicket

  • POSTED BY Shaggy076 on | February 5, 2014, 10:59 GMT

    ArnoldVH; Just a couple of corrections your last loss was to Australia in South Africa in 2009 without those pillars of Warne and McGrath. It has been 2 series in South Africa now without then with one Australian victory one draw.

  • POSTED BY Shaggy076 on | February 5, 2014, 10:53 GMT

    RedNWhite Army; Yes its been about 6 months now since winning that one-day series in England.

  • POSTED BY Mitty2 on | February 5, 2014, 10:46 GMT

    @Funny_Essex_Boi, you try and bat on a sticky wicket. In fact, whoever's the best player of the short ball in world cricket I dare them to bat against Rhino, MJ and Sids on a sticky wicket. The result would be over quick.

  • POSTED BY Mitty2 on | February 5, 2014, 10:44 GMT

    @rednwhitearmy, as it has been for you... 2012 V India was your last if I'm not mistaken, since then 0-5 in 8 tests, with three draws against NZ and the last one Eng were very lucky to escape. But I can't talk because we lost 7-0 in a 9 test period, although before that our away record was actually pretty good. But then again you can't talk anything negative about Australia for a long while. You lost 12-1.

    Enlightening article, there should be more of these around. Interesting about the MoHen comment - I've never respected his bowling. Reading a few blogs around apparently as a young lad he was feared as a bowler and bowled quick, in India I thought him to be a Shane Watson type bowler without swing. But I reckon there's potential if he can get it to scream off a length at a fast enough pace to compliment his improving batting... Still shouldn't have been included, but still a positive sign.

    Annoying about Bird, was hoping he could use the tour match to get his rhythm.

  • POSTED BY ArnoldVDH on | February 5, 2014, 10:39 GMT

    @ Dinosaurus

    You can hardly draw any conclsions from one series in SA without those 2 pillars.

    More important is the fact SA haven't lost a series since I think it was Sri Lanka away in 2006.

    That is the all-revealing statistic.

  • POSTED BY Diddles1978 on | February 5, 2014, 9:25 GMT

    Michael Clarke better get used to getting hit as he is going to get peppered with the short stuff, and as the picture shows he will struggle as he takes his eye of the ball and leaves his gloves and bat up.

    I hope it's a bowler friendly series rather than a flat pitch bore off, whoever bats the best a team will take this series.

  • POSTED BY RednWhiteArmy on | February 5, 2014, 9:24 GMT

    Its been a very, very long time since australia won anything on opposition soil.

  • POSTED BY BaasHerman on | February 5, 2014, 7:34 GMT

    If Smith remembers Johnson for his injury then suely the aussies will remember hw philander destroyed them at newlands...

    Going to a hard fought series!! SA to win 2 - 1. With these two bowling attacks the only way a test will end up in a draw is when the weather plays a part. Both bowling attacks are more than capable of taking 20 wickets in a test!

  • POSTED BY on | February 5, 2014, 7:10 GMT

    @bren19, think your missing the point mate, this sounded more like a shooting range than a cricket pitch, with how unpredictable it is, no Test Match wicket would be anywhere near this, not even Hobart's green seaming wickets! batting in conditions like this would do bugger all for your technique, because of how unpredictable it's playing, sounded like balls on a good length are hitting batsman in the chest....

  • POSTED BY jonesy2 on | February 5, 2014, 4:37 GMT

    brilliant report but why did hughes and Watson not have a go!?? they should've been the first ones in there.

  • POSTED BY twomarktwo on | February 5, 2014, 3:44 GMT

    I wouldn't necessarily say SA had trouble beating India when the the 2 games of the series were an SA win by 10 wickets, and a draw (SA 6 runs behind). You are correct in saying that the Aussies are on a roll as their Ashes victory was something special, but this South African side has only lost 1 Test Series in the last 7 years.

    Going to be a great series with all results being a possibility. Though I think the least likely result would be a comfortable Australian victory (not saying it can't happen, but its certainly the least likely)

  • POSTED BY Kolpak1989 on | February 5, 2014, 3:31 GMT

    @dinosaurus, Warne and McGrath weren't there for the Aussie win in 2009 either. But the Mitch was... Smith won't have forgotten. A young PJ Hughes made his debut in that series by smashing back to back centuries too.

  • POSTED BY on | February 5, 2014, 2:07 GMT

    I think the Aussies are on a roll and should take the series comfortably. Remember South Africa had trouble winning against India in the recent 2-Test series, and they haven't won a home series against Australia in a long time.

  • POSTED BY dinosaurus on | February 4, 2014, 23:45 GMT

    @ArnoldVDH

    "And when you mention Aussie record in SA, you forget to mention that Warne and McGrath are no longer there."

    But you seem to have forgotten that, for the latest SA series in SA (1-1), they weren't there either!

  • POSTED BY bren19 on | February 4, 2014, 22:52 GMT

    Concerned that the aussie batsmen left the fast mens nets. Practice might help a bit. After all when Steyn and co are delivering in the middle, the only way you walk away is when you get out!!

  • POSTED BY Adoh on | February 4, 2014, 19:50 GMT

    If you base your predictions on career averages, SA look better on paper and this should be an easy win for them. If you base your predictions on ICC player ratings/rankings i.e. current form, Australia should win. The outcome of this series is by no means assured and this is why test cricket is the best game on the planet! Go Aussies!!!

  • POSTED BY gogoldengreens on | February 4, 2014, 18:47 GMT

    Should be a 5 test series... With the bowling attacks involved games may not last much more than 3 days!!

  • POSTED BY on | February 4, 2014, 18:05 GMT

    Just hope to see another great Test series. Just give us all result matches please.

  • POSTED BY reason-galore on | February 4, 2014, 17:21 GMT

    Australia will trouble south africa and A LOT too. They matches will be close, i am sure of it. But south africa is better in the batting department and steyn is unplayable if the there is swing, although i am not in love with any other south african bowler, no matter how good they are.

  • POSTED BY Green_and_Gold on | February 4, 2014, 17:19 GMT

    Is it just me or has Mitch grown his mo again?

  • POSTED BY Vindaliew on | February 4, 2014, 16:51 GMT

    So for the first Test, Clarke will stand alone unbeaten on a century, while Rogers retires hurt and Watto/Hughes "Did not bat"? It probably was too dangerous anyway, and there's no point in getting injured of course, but it really shows how great a batsman Pup is.

  • POSTED BY on | February 4, 2014, 16:41 GMT

    the fact that he even gives out there is prrof that he is greatest batsman ever. No question

  • POSTED BY on | February 4, 2014, 16:29 GMT

    @Ozcricketwriter

    Philander was never dropped. He was injured during the 1st Test and everyone got smashed on the Adelaide Road. The Truth of the matter is, since the end of Australia's Great Era; South Africa have a 4-3 lead in Test Encounters showing the teams to be very equal. South Africa still have three world-class batsmen to Australia's one and the rest should cancel each other out.

  • POSTED BY ArnoldVDH on | February 4, 2014, 16:16 GMT

    @Ozcricketwriter

    I suggest you get your facts right.

    Philander was not hit all over the park and dropped.

    That distinction belongs to Imran Tahir who is not part of the Protea squad for this series.

    And when you mention Aussie record in SA, you forget to mention that Warne and McGrath are no longer there.

    You really need to get your facts straight.

    Advantage South Africa.

  • POSTED BY on | February 4, 2014, 15:59 GMT

    This should be a 5 Test series. Clarke v Steyn, it does not get much better!

  • POSTED BY jb633 on | February 4, 2014, 15:48 GMT

    Harris is a better bowler than Steyn in current form and I think Aus will go on and win this series. As much as I want SA to win (i'm English) I believe the Aussies have a better balanced attack and are sky high on confidence. If Mitch gets it right to Amla he could have him in his pocket. Amla does seem to struggle a lot more against left arm seamers than any other angle. SA are a class team but I just have the feeling the Aussies are going to catch them off guard. Should be a good series

  • POSTED BY Ozcricketwriter on | February 4, 2014, 15:37 GMT

    Australia's first test XI picks themselves:

    Same as in England, with Alex Doolan replacing George Bailey.

    As for South Africa, they still haven't decided who will replace Jacques Kallis. I heard a rumour that Wayne Parnell might be. They would be losing a lot of batting there! They also are a bit unsure about whether to persist with the spin of Robin Petersen or return to Imran Tahir or someone else, or even go all pace. But they are still fairly settled.

    Don't forget that the last time these two played each other, Vernon Philander was smashed all over the park and was dropped due to bad form. Philander has a bad record against Australia. The only bowler that Australia fear is Dale Steyn.

    Last time in South Africa it was a 1-1 draw. Australia have a better record in South Africa than they do against South Africa in Australia.

    Advantage Australia.

  • POSTED BY Extra...Cover on | February 4, 2014, 15:02 GMT

    Harris definitely the pick of the Aus bowlers (avg 21.6) - probably the only one to have performed consistently against quality opposition (Johnson 28.3, Henriques 77.5, Siddle 28.6, Lyon 32.5, Pattinson 26.4, Watson 31.8). Jackson Bird is one to watch though given his obvious class.

    But this pace attack lacks the pedigree of Philander (avg 18.0), Steyn (22.9), and Abbott (7.5 & a FC avg of 21.9) in the wings. Morkel's 29.9 career average belies an avg of 23.4 at Centurion, his home ground, and 20.3 in the recent India tour.

    SA come into the series with 3 batsmen with career avgs above 50 (Amla, de Villiers & du Plessis - Smith is at 49.6), while Aus has only Clarke (51.4) with an avg above 41.

    All the same, it should be a great contest.

  • POSTED BY ActionJacksonMan on | February 4, 2014, 14:53 GMT

    Loved the comment "of the sextet, only Harris kept his foot consistently behind the crease." Even in training, you can always count on Rhino to do all of the little things right.

  • POSTED BY RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on | February 4, 2014, 14:01 GMT

    Harris kept his foot behind the line because he is anyways the best bowler in the world. Or else Haddin would have been captaining Aus.

  • POSTED BY PrasPunter on | February 4, 2014, 13:56 GMT

    If Aus bats first and score atleast 300+, my money on our bowlers !! That's the best chance of Aus getting ahead of SA.

  • POSTED BY JimmySA on | February 4, 2014, 13:47 GMT

    It's very fitting that an Aus wrote this article. Well played ;)

  • POSTED BY JoshFromJamRock on | February 4, 2014, 13:44 GMT

    Gotta love Clarkey! Leading by example is the way to go.

  • POSTED BY JoshFromJamRock on | February 4, 2014, 13:44 GMT

    Gotta love Clarkey! Leading by example is the way to go.

  • POSTED BY JimmySA on | February 4, 2014, 13:47 GMT

    It's very fitting that an Aus wrote this article. Well played ;)

  • POSTED BY PrasPunter on | February 4, 2014, 13:56 GMT

    If Aus bats first and score atleast 300+, my money on our bowlers !! That's the best chance of Aus getting ahead of SA.

  • POSTED BY RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on | February 4, 2014, 14:01 GMT

    Harris kept his foot behind the line because he is anyways the best bowler in the world. Or else Haddin would have been captaining Aus.

  • POSTED BY ActionJacksonMan on | February 4, 2014, 14:53 GMT

    Loved the comment "of the sextet, only Harris kept his foot consistently behind the crease." Even in training, you can always count on Rhino to do all of the little things right.

  • POSTED BY Extra...Cover on | February 4, 2014, 15:02 GMT

    Harris definitely the pick of the Aus bowlers (avg 21.6) - probably the only one to have performed consistently against quality opposition (Johnson 28.3, Henriques 77.5, Siddle 28.6, Lyon 32.5, Pattinson 26.4, Watson 31.8). Jackson Bird is one to watch though given his obvious class.

    But this pace attack lacks the pedigree of Philander (avg 18.0), Steyn (22.9), and Abbott (7.5 & a FC avg of 21.9) in the wings. Morkel's 29.9 career average belies an avg of 23.4 at Centurion, his home ground, and 20.3 in the recent India tour.

    SA come into the series with 3 batsmen with career avgs above 50 (Amla, de Villiers & du Plessis - Smith is at 49.6), while Aus has only Clarke (51.4) with an avg above 41.

    All the same, it should be a great contest.

  • POSTED BY Ozcricketwriter on | February 4, 2014, 15:37 GMT

    Australia's first test XI picks themselves:

    Same as in England, with Alex Doolan replacing George Bailey.

    As for South Africa, they still haven't decided who will replace Jacques Kallis. I heard a rumour that Wayne Parnell might be. They would be losing a lot of batting there! They also are a bit unsure about whether to persist with the spin of Robin Petersen or return to Imran Tahir or someone else, or even go all pace. But they are still fairly settled.

    Don't forget that the last time these two played each other, Vernon Philander was smashed all over the park and was dropped due to bad form. Philander has a bad record against Australia. The only bowler that Australia fear is Dale Steyn.

    Last time in South Africa it was a 1-1 draw. Australia have a better record in South Africa than they do against South Africa in Australia.

    Advantage Australia.

  • POSTED BY jb633 on | February 4, 2014, 15:48 GMT

    Harris is a better bowler than Steyn in current form and I think Aus will go on and win this series. As much as I want SA to win (i'm English) I believe the Aussies have a better balanced attack and are sky high on confidence. If Mitch gets it right to Amla he could have him in his pocket. Amla does seem to struggle a lot more against left arm seamers than any other angle. SA are a class team but I just have the feeling the Aussies are going to catch them off guard. Should be a good series

  • POSTED BY on | February 4, 2014, 15:59 GMT

    This should be a 5 Test series. Clarke v Steyn, it does not get much better!

  • POSTED BY ArnoldVDH on | February 4, 2014, 16:16 GMT

    @Ozcricketwriter

    I suggest you get your facts right.

    Philander was not hit all over the park and dropped.

    That distinction belongs to Imran Tahir who is not part of the Protea squad for this series.

    And when you mention Aussie record in SA, you forget to mention that Warne and McGrath are no longer there.

    You really need to get your facts straight.

    Advantage South Africa.