Australia in South Africa 2013-14 January 31, 2014

Clarke accepts SA favourites at home

ESPNcricinfo staff

Michael Clarke backs 'world's best' attack

Australia arrive for their tour of South Africa on the back of a rousing Ashes win and, although South Africa have never beaten the visitors at home since re-integration, Michael Clarke has picked the hosts as favourites for the series. Australia are scheduled to play three Tests and three T20s on their South Africa tour, beginning with the first Test on February 12.

"Being in South Africa's backyard, I would imagine they will be favourites," Clarke said in his first press conference after landing in South Africa. "But that doesn't bother us."

The last time Graeme Smith's side lost a series was nearly five years ago, when Ricky Ponting led a new-look Australian team. Since then, South Africa have established themselves as undeniably the best Test outfit in the world. The recent form of touring teams also seems to suggest that South Africa have the advantage. In 2013, Zimbabwe were the only side to lose Tests at home and Australia, too, had a torrid time on their tours of India (0-4) and the Ashes in England (0-3).

"It will be a great challenge to come to South Africa and play the No. 1 Test team in the world," Clarke said. "We know we have to be at our best to have success."

The biggest challenge for Australia will be South Africa's pace trio of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, one of the strongest bowling attacks in recent times. Australia have reasons to be buoyant, though, after their Mitchell Johnson-led attack turned in one of the great series performances in the 5-0 drubbing of England.

"I think it's going to be a tough tour for the batsmen," Clarke said. "You have two very good bowling attacks. I don't know what the wickets are going to be like, but generally there is a bit in the wickets in South Africa."

Clarke, though, tipped his bowlers as the better unit: "I'm a little bit biased, but in my opinion, this Australian attack is the best in the world. What I've seen from the Australian fast bowlers over a long period of time, I feel we have the best attack in the world.

"I have said that, statistically the South African attack is unbelievable. They love their own conditions and they have had a lot of success here. They are going to be extremely tough to face."

Australia have only one warm-up match to get to grips with the South Africa surfaces. Their training in Potchefstroom was also curtailed by rain.

"It's about getting used to the conditions, but if we can play a similar brand of cricket to what we played in Australia, then I think we can have some success over here," he said. "It is important we get some good preparation and training in so we need this rain to disappear."

The tour kicks off with a four-day practice game against a South African Invitational XI starting Wednesday.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • kev on February 7, 2014, 21:13 GMT

    I agree with a lot of people saying that the aussie bowling unit is strong but not the best - I don't mind clarke saying that he thinks they are the best in the business and thrashing england at home is great but when you can roll 3 teams out for under 50 all in a row at home, then perhaps you can you can actually believethey are the best in the world.

  • Mark on February 6, 2014, 10:26 GMT

    Manxmuppet, Its not the swallow The Australian Test that lost India is not this team, And the Bowling Unit that Lost to England Also did not Allow them to score, In those games Our Batsmen let us down, But the One Swallow you are referring too, They only allow 1 Batsman to score 100, and for the first time in 50 plus years they capture 100 test wickets, That is every wicket in every game, Name another Team that gone close to that, This Bowling Unit under McDemott is getting better with every outing, Since Lehmann took over, And before you say Hadden save Australia, Only one of the Australian batsman failed to score a test century,

  • Ben on February 4, 2014, 12:26 GMT

    "What I've seen from the Australian fast bowlers over a long period of time, I feel we have the best attack in the world."........that period of time, would it include the 0-4 in India and the 0-3 in England?

    One swallow does not a summer make. Rolling over a pathetically inept England team doesn't make you the best bowling attack in the world. Rolling over this SA batting line up will give Aus bragging rights, but let's wait until they've done it before we start talking about best bowling attack in the world.

  • Dummy4 on February 4, 2014, 11:05 GMT

    I think that the result of this series could be determined by three things: 1) Team attitude: (the side that looks for more ways to win probably will) 2) Fielding: ( No Jonti Rhodes [on either side] but whichever side puts pressure on their opponents better will be favored) & MOST IMPORTANT 3) Catches: [win matches] (An extremely important subset of fielding)

    As to who wins: I have no idea, SAf deserve (at home & no. 1) to be favorites; but I'm hoping for a 2-1 Aus win or maybe a 1-1 (with one washout).

  • Xiong on February 4, 2014, 9:18 GMT

    @Kolpak As much as I love Haddin since his return I think you're taking it a bit far there. Haddin's glovework was shocking prior to his break, but since his return I have been really impressed, it's gone up at least 2 or 3 notches. He used to be not much better than Wade, now he's a real wicket keeper. AB has solid glovework, and isn't really tested because SA don't have a quality spin option. Haddin wins as a keeper but AB is good enough for the way his team is constructed.

    I'm Australian, I love the refreshed Haddin's work. But to say he's in any way a better batter than AB is ludicrous. One comes in at 7 and swings away, gives up plenty of chances and sometimes runs into England who can't catch or take any chances. AB is a technical, destructive batsman. You could easily make a case he is the best batsman there is. According to the rankings he definitely is. Comparing that to Haddin is silly, so let's not make Australian supporters look completely daft, if that's ok with you.

  • Ben on February 4, 2014, 6:03 GMT

    Ozcricketwriter, you have got to be kidding about De Villiers being a better keeper/batsman than Haddin! De Villiers has been a part-time keeper for most of his international career (behind Boucher) and as a result his glovework is not in the league of Haddins. Additionally, in the Ashes Haddin averaged 66 with the bat. De Villiers, by way of contrast, is returning from hand surgery and hasn't had a hit for five weeks. I think Haddin will be the pick of the two.

    As for the batting, Michael Clarke is every bit as good as De Villiers and Amla. Clarke's run of scores throughout 2012 and 2013 stacks up positively against both of those players and he was contending with a tour of India, which might as well be the moon as far as batting is concerned (for Aussies/Poms/Saffers). Petersen at the top of the order is a weakness for South Africa and Faf has never had to bat this high in tests before. Game on I reckon.

  • hayden on February 4, 2014, 2:08 GMT

    couple of comments that pop up in these articles bother me. first why no 5 test series? well because both countries play their home test at the same time of year and both refuse to tour the other during boxing day/new years period!!! and no 5 test series will ever be played in australia without including the boxing day test in melbourne and the new years test in sydney. secondly philander being the no. 1 bowler that just proves the ranking are skewed!!! philander did little to impress when in australia. he skipped the adeliade test fearing for his bowling avg. one that he complied playing only at home, in eng and nz and all in favorable conditions. the moment he saw the adelaide deck he ran for the hills!!! a green top bully, nothing more!!! steyn now theres a bowler who can take wicket on any surface and the true no. 1!! johnson may challenge this if he keeps bowling like he did in the ashes however!!!

  • Graham on February 4, 2014, 1:18 GMT

    TommyTuckerSaffa; FIrst of all I agree with your point it is laughable Steyn not being considered a threat. I would also say the Aussie batsmans would consider Philander a massive threat as well, like the South Africans would be very weary of Harris. However I have to take exception to your example of the Adelaide test. You say lets not forget this is the same attack that South Africa batted out for 2 days on Adelaide, well is it not the same South African attack that went for 4/480 in a day of cricket. Secondly, Johnson, Harris and Watson did not play. Thirdly, it was a three bowler attack with Patterson breaking down and temperature above 40 degrees. I'm not sure any 3 bowler attack is ever going to get a team out in those conditions.

  • Nicholas on February 3, 2014, 22:34 GMT

    Despite being a neutral, I really hope and pray that all the key bowlers stay fit and in great form throughout, and in Johnson's case that the right one even turns up! Ought to be a cracking series if this comes to pass. A lot of talk about the bowlers, but what about the batsmen? SA favourites there too I'd imagine.

  • Sandil on February 3, 2014, 14:33 GMT

    It would do Clarke good to not shoot his mouth off like he did with England. He was pretty confident looking at the English team. Unlike England or Oz, there are too many names to mention for outstanding performances because the batting and bowling options are of equal strength and well balanced.

    One cannot just depend on a Johnson or a lucky Faukner day. Hence SA starting off favourites has more merit that Clarke has to concede. For SA, a draw is a loss.