Australia in South Africa 2013-14 February 5, 2014

Peterson in Australia's sights

With Australia having given the opposition spinners a torturous time in recent months, Robin Peterson will have his work cut out for him in the upcoming series

Australia's plans to unbalance South Africa in their first steps beyond Jacques Kallis era will include a surgical strike against the left-arm spin of Robin Peterson, the man expected to take up much of the bowling slack left by the retired allrounder.

Irrespective of the pitch prepared for the first Test at Centurion Park, Peterson is expected to take his place in the side and alongside the part-time spinner JP Duminy, will be responsible for offering respite for Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander.

Knowing this, the tourists' net sessions have duly featured notable passages against left-arm spin, either by a net bowler directed to challenge Australia's middle order batsmen from around the wicket, or by the coach Darren Lehmann delivering left-arm spinning throw downs at a close approximation of Peterson's trajectory.

Lehmann has also been seen in discussion with the likes of Shane Watson and Brad Haddin about the best avenues down which to attack Peterson and Duminy, taking into account the thinner Highveld atmosphere and the dimensions of Centurion Park. Recent history suggests they will be confident of forcing Graeme Smith to withdraw his slow men far earlier than he would prefer.

The treatment meted out to other spin bowlers to have faced Australia since Lehmann settled in as coach has been brutal, from James Tredwell and R Ashwin in the overseas ODIs that preceded the home Ashes, to the wanton destruction of Graeme Swann that hastened his retirement. With Kallis' steady seam bowling no longer available, the battle against Peterson will be critical to Australia's chances of pushing South Africa to lean very heavily upon their vaunted pace triumvirate.

"I think they'll use probably Duminy and him simultaneously," David Warner said of Peterson. "They've got to hold up one end as well as they can, and if we put pressure on both of them they're going to have to bring back their quicks. I think that's a job we did very well against England.

"Any team that has quality fast-bowlers, always try and take down the spinner. We did that against Graeme Swann. We know England tried to do that to Nathan, we tried to do it against Robin when he played against us in Australia [in late 2012]. We've got to respect him, and then when we feel we can go after him we'll go after him."

The Perth encounter during the 2012 series is cause for some caution from Australia's batsmen, for in that match they were guilty of getting a little too overexcited in their efforts to belt Peterson out of the WACA Ground, offering up six wickets, including that of Ricky Ponting in his final innings. It is also notable that they were partly baited into doing so by Peterson's verbal provocations and wild celebrations of his wickets.

"We see 'Gaz' [Nathan Lyon] as the quiet assassin. Robin Peterson is a bit 'out there' and likes to get into verbal contests," Warner said, not quite grasping his own reputation for initiating banter. "Sometimes, as a batter, if they've got that chip on their shoulder we're willing to take them down a bit more."

Swann may be categorised among those chippier types, but the inoffensive natures of Tredwell and Ashwin did little to spare them punishment. In England, Tredwell was carted for 151 runs at 7.42 an over, meaning he bowled only 20.2 overs in four matches as the hosts were compelled to look elsewhere for economy.

Likewise Ashwin was a bowler diminished in menace from the moment he was taken for 41 from two overs in a Twenty20 fixture at the outset of the limited-overs tour of India, during which he went for near enough to six runs an over after tying the Test men in knots earlier in the year.

These successes bred a confidence that was then utilised to maximum advantage against Swann, who bled runs at nearly four per over in three Tests before abruptly announcing his exit from the game. For Peterson, a sporadic participant in South Africa's recent years of Test supremacy, a similar outcome would not only damage his side's chances of a home win, but also consign him to the ranks of the also-rans.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sean on February 9, 2014, 4:52 GMT

    The empty can rattles the most.

  • Mayan on February 7, 2014, 22:15 GMT

    With the sheer amount of talking this big mouth Warner is doing one can be forgiven to think that he must be Australia's best batsman, ever! Can someone please remind me what his batting average is of all the matches he played against South Africa in South Africa. I would be very surprised if it is more than about 32. What a big mouth for such a below average bat!

  • Steve on February 7, 2014, 8:25 GMT

    @bowledout67.....yes but their batsmen only managed 300 against a second class bowling attack!!!!

  • Graham on February 6, 2014, 22:54 GMT

    PACERONE; What a stupid statement. Australia have said they want to be number 1 and I'm pretty sure every country will have the same goal. To be number 1 you have to win games, and beating a very good South African side you have to be smart not blindly stupid. Steyn is quality, you play the team not the man and by doing as you suggest is not going to take you to number 1.

  • Tim on February 6, 2014, 19:35 GMT

    Here we go again. The Ozzies are busy with their mind games and big mouths. They are masters at getting inside their opponents' heads, something started by Steve Waugh, one of the most effective but most unpleasant cricket captains of recent memory. I do long for the days when you let your playing do the talking. The modern mental mind games is an unlovely thing, and not worthy of a game that, along with |Rugby Union, has held sportsmanship as an ideal and something of first importance. Other sports like football (soccer) lost it long ago. It is sad to see cricket going that way in recent years.

  • Dummy4 on February 6, 2014, 15:52 GMT

    Bindi Basher, you are absolutely spot on. Cannot believe the carry-on from the unAustralians and their delusional fans and media. They've spent the last 5 years getting drubbed by pretty much any nation that could form a cricket team, then they finally win a series against a heartless England team in their own backyard, and now they're gonna smash the number 1 South African team in South Africa?

    They haven't won even a solitary test match away from home in 2 years. They carried on the same way and thumping their chests after they beat India in Australia a couple of years back - we're the greatest, got the psychological edge, gonna smash India in their own backyard, we have the best bowlers/batsmen/girlfriends/ride-on mowers blah blah blah - since then, their best day of test cricket away from home was the day that got completely washed out when they were getting massacred (again) by India.

    What the hell is wrong with people in this country? For God's sake, come back to earth

  • nemo on February 6, 2014, 14:46 GMT

    they say you only as good as your last performance and if you go by that Peterson picked up a 4for in his last innings against a not so spin-friendly batting line up in india. and if you take the warm up game into account where he ended with figures of 12 overs 3/9. that spells wickets plus economy.

  • nemo on February 6, 2014, 14:33 GMT

    BEWARE AUSTRALIA!!! BEWARE!!! Watched the trio bowl today on a pretty docile wanderers pitch. Vernon was himself taking 3/8 in 6 overs while Morne was destroying the next best South African line up with some rip snorters.(some balls clocked 154km/ph on the speed gun) and ended with figures of 3/8 as the match was called off at tea with the sa composite side 66/7..... I wonder whats in store for australia next week .... hmmmm...

  • Earl on February 6, 2014, 12:08 GMT

    We do not know what will happen,but if Australia wants to prove that they are the best they should be targeting Steyn and not Peteresn.

  • Dummy4 on February 6, 2014, 10:41 GMT

    Guys we all cannot wait for this Series!! Yes Siddle is better than Morkel, but by a "country mile" I really don't know about that! All I can say that Vernon and Dale are gonna give the big mouth AUSSIE'S a helva lot to think about! I think Johnson only plays well in Aussie and will find it a tad tough in RSA! Regarding all this crap that we gonna be seen to miss King Kallis!! Chaps his gone and he was Great, so lets leave the past behind us and lets see if this Aussie side is a good as they MAKE THEMSELVES out to be!! All I can say beware of the Proteas BEWARE!! Pure Protea!!

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