South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Centurion, 4th day

Australia exceed the hype

Beating South Africa at their stronghold, Centurion Park, is among the toughest challenges in modern cricket. Australia obliterated them

Daniel Brettig at Centurion Park

February 15, 2014

Comments: 95 | Text size: A | A
Clarke praises Australia's attitude, hunger

Still "bull....", Graeme? For the second time in as many series a proud, accomplished team with a strong record of success over many years has been not merely beaten but utterly obliterated on their first meeting with Australia. There have been plenty of common denominators.

Each time, Michael Clarke's players and the coaches led by Darren Lehmann have entered the series expressing plentiful bravado, speaking freely of their capabilities and plans. Each time their batsmen recovered from an early wobble to put a strong score on the board, before Mitchell Johnson and the rest of the attack have performed with unrivalled hostility, even butchery. The bluff and bluster Graeme Smith referred to so dryly has been backed comprehensively up by action. If anything, Australia have exceeded even their own predictions.

But it is one thing to defeat England at home, in Brisbane, on a ground with which the players are both familiar and supremely confident, possessing an unbeaten record stretching back as far as 1988. It is another entirely to travel halfway across the world to face a better team, playing on their own home turf, on a ground where they have won each of the past five contests by an innings. A ground where their only loss in 18 Test matches involved contrived declarations, a captain compromised by illegal bookies and a leather jacket.

On their knees: Morne Morkel was run out as Australia wrapped up victory, South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Centurion, 4th day, February 15, 2014
In their brutal victory, Australia more than lived up to their pre-series bluster © AFP

Away from home, against the world's No. 1 team, in their Centurion fortress, Australia's achievement was monstrous in its enormity. An equivalent victory would be to defeat Pakistan in Karachi in the 1990s, West Indies in Barbados in the 1980s, Australia at the Gabba in the 2000s, or India on a Chennai clay-pit in 2013. To even scrape across the line at Centurion would have been a major achievement. Instead Australia left South Africa needing to be scraped off the floor.

However much Smith contended that there would be no psychological damage resulting from this result, so many on-field sights suggested otherwise. Whether it was the captain himself pinned second ball by Johnson in each innings, the hosts fielding listlessly on the third day, Ryan McLaren having his ear bloodied and ringing from a wicked Johnson bumper, or Robin Peterson hopping fearfully around the crease as the match drew to a grisly close, all signs pointed to scarring.

At the same time, Australia can call on countless pointers to rampant belief. From the moment Alex Doolan and Shaun Marsh showed they belonged on the first day by standing up to Morne Morkel's bounce, to the instant Chris Rogers chased and dived headlong on the boundary to prevent meaningless runs by South Africa's final batting pair, not one member of the team showed anything but fierce focus, insatiable hunger and the attitude common to cricket's best combinations. As Clarke put it:

"The two things I've addressed to the group a number of times are attitude and hunger. I think our attitude at the moment is outstanding. We're finding ways to get back into the game, we're finding ways to run with momentum when we have it. A great example of the hunger among the boys was the way Shaun Marsh batted in that second innings after scoring the 148 he did in the first dig, he still started like he was on zero in the first dig, he wanted to score and contribute.

"I think you see it in someone like Alex Doolan in that second innings. i don't think he'll play a tougher innings than that in his career. You're playing against a fantastic bowling attack, the best I've played against in my career, on a wicket that was going up and down, to play like that on debut he deserves a lot of credit. I think you see in my team-mates eyes at the moment they are so hungry for success, they know how great a challenge we have in front of us, and I can't fault their attitude at all."

The mentions of Doolan and Marsh were highly fitting, for their parts in a pair of double-century stands answered long-standing questions about the tourists' batting. Johnson's brutal treatment of South Africa was doubly terrifying for the fact they knew it had been coming for some time, but the contributions of Marsh and Doolan offered Australia the most optimistic news for their stocks of batsmen in years. If that lessens the rush to get Shane Watson back into the team, no matter. Four bowlers of the quality on display here are quite enough.

An equivalent victory to this would be to defeat Pakistan in Karachi in the 1990s, West Indies in Barbados in the 1980s, Australia at the Gabba in the 2000s, or India on a Chennai clay-pit in 2013

In front of the best crowd of the match, Clarke had begun the march towards victory by closing the innings after he and Marsh added only two runs in 3.2 overs - enough to confirm to the hosts how devilish a task they would face. Clarke is a great believer in the potential of a declaration to wrong-foot his opponents, especially by giving the openers only the minimum 10 minutes to prepare. More often than not, it works, and it did so again here.

Smith indicated his addled mind by fencing at Ryan Harris' first ball to him and missing. When he faced up to Johnson, Smith managed one edgy boundary first ball, but the second aimed at his hip was flicked unerringly into the hands of Doolan. While the reaction time was minimal and the catch a stunner, Doolan's placement at a backward short leg was no accident - a position devised specifically for Smith's prominent bottom hand.

As memorable as Smith's demise was the restriction of AB de Villiers, evidence of how quickly the Australians are learning on their feet. The first innings had seen plenty of de Villiers' unique invention, creating hitherto unseen gaps with his mercurial combination of feet and wrists. This time around his options were reduced by a commendably disciplined line from the bowlers and the alert placement of catchers and run savers in front of the wicket. One such man, Steve Smith, eventually claimed the sharpest of catches at short cover to end de Villiers' subdued stay.

That wicket ended any semblance of a contest, sending much of the Saturday crowd home early to watch their other great sporting passion, rugby. But there was still time for a final macabre episode with Peterson at its centre. McLaren's blow to the side of the head and subsequent dismissal compounded the Peterson's earlier experience of Johnson, which had him out to a ball that would have decapitated him if not for gloves thrown up in self-defence.

He was thus cornered into outlandish evasive action, taking an exaggerated hop to the off side of the ball whenever Johnson pitched short. In doing so, Peterson demonstrated exactly how difficult it was to take up de Villiers' advice about ignoring the fear of being hurt. Cricket is a game both mental and physical in its challenges, and at Centurion, the visitors reigned supreme on both counts. Just as Johnson is currently confounding the metrics of the ICC rankings, so too are Australia. Who might possibly stop them now?

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

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Jagger on (February 19, 2014, 8:06 GMT)

@ Ashik Sali - India has never won a Test series in Australia. Australia has of course won more than one Test series in India. Question: Why is India this 'final frontier' you speak of when the opposite is true, and what do you think Australia will do to India when they come down for test series and the World Cup vs Johnson, Harris, Bird et al? Make no mistake, Johnson and Harris will be first picked for the World Cup final. Final frontier indeed.

Posted by   on (February 18, 2014, 15:35 GMT)

Now that all the talk of Best Bowling attack is over after complete domination of 1 side, the people who said that England were an under prepared team can eat up their words, since at the start of the Ashes, Eng arrived with Batsmen Cook, Trott, Bell, Joe Root & KP all in good form but they were left looking like Lambs by this Hostile Aus Bowling unit. Another significant thing that Test cricket lovers can note is the difference between Attacking and Defensive captains.Clarke declared early in the morning(much to my surprise) and exposed SAf to more than 2.5 sessions in the Day left, even though he knew SAf are good 4th innings chasers.He backed his Bowlers to wipe out SAf and give a day's rest to his bowlers. Remember Dhoni had a similar situation where he had SA on the backfoot at EO the 3rd day at Joburg(thought the lead was a bit less),but played defensive cricket by declaring late before Tea, which set the Tone for his bowlers bowling unpenetratively the entire 5th day for a Draw.

Posted by   on (February 18, 2014, 3:43 GMT)

@Ashik Sali

While Australia did not win a series in India while Steve Waugh was captain,you seem to have forgotten that they did manage this feat under Ricky Ponting in 2004, winning the 4 test series 2-1. India, on the other hand, are yet to win a series in Australia.

Posted by Ragav999 on (February 18, 2014, 1:48 GMT)

@Ashik: Steve Waugh's team could not conquer India because the umpires favoured India so much that every half decent appeal by Harbhajan was upheld. Even then they came within 2 wickets distance of grabbing the deciding Test in Chennai in 2001. This current Australian team is vastly different from the one that lost in India last year. This team will compete well in India in Tests if there is a series hosted in India with DRS being made available and will most probably draw the series. But if India went to Australia, there is a high probability of huge defeat in every Test.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (February 17, 2014, 21:56 GMT)

Ashik : If your premonition comes true we lose in India but win everywhere else whilst, India lose every away series we would still be number 1. So I simply don't understand your point we do not have to win in India to become #1. I would have thought if we were to win this series beating the number 1 side away would be an achievement worthy of celebration.

Posted by Petesta on (February 17, 2014, 13:54 GMT)

I normally enjoy Daniel Brettig's writing, but find this piece poor. Four bowlers in this form are enough? Really? Only Johnson's figures for the match were good and Siddle needed the pitch's bad behaviour to pick up a wicket. Sure Mitch bowled superbly, but I suspsect SA's betters will handle him better in the second test and even better in the third. Once SA bat for 100 overs 4 bowlers may be shown to be horribly inadequate. And heaven forbid something should happen to Johnson in his first spell... Australia would be in for a bigger hiding than the one they just handed out.

Posted by andrew-schulz on (February 17, 2014, 13:00 GMT)

Hello 13, you are putting many words in players mouths that were never said, as well as showing yourself a poor judge of cricket conditions. No one will agree with you that the pitches in India did not turn.

Posted by andrew-schulz on (February 17, 2014, 12:55 GMT)

Please don't tell us that England had a strong record of success over many years. They did not.

Posted by Adoh on (February 17, 2014, 9:24 GMT)

Bodyline is not possible today because the field placings for bodyline are illegal - but nice try with the emotive provocation. For the uneducated, Bodyline involved targeting the ribs on the leg side - Johnson is mostly targeting heads. Also, it is illegal to bowl more than two bouncers over shoulder height in one over - Bodyline was a tactic employed without restriction, which does not apply today. It is Mitchs' speed and accuracy....look at what happened to Amla and Peterson...that is the threat and will continue to intimidate opposition batsmen. God knows, I'd hate to face him...but then again I'd hate to face David Warner. :)

Posted by austentayshus on (February 17, 2014, 8:47 GMT)

@ Ashlik

from your comments it seems that you have tasted bitter grapes. Try to be humble Mate try to give credit where is due ... We are not No.1 test team right now but on way to be No.1 and that my friend is pleasing. While Indian Cricket team is on its way down in test cricket .. lost to southafrica and now new zealand will win second test . so since 2011 the record for team india 11-0 .. what a great achievement ..

Posted by   on (February 17, 2014, 4:49 GMT)

@kepler22b: I did not say anything wrong about this Australian team. The teams (in general not just Australia) are not consistent to be tagged #1. I still maintain if this same Australia team will be demolished if they tour India. Even Steve Waugh's team could not conquer what he called the final frontier. The only team which came here and dominated is the mighty West Indians of the 80s. You have just one Johnson who is great form of his career. Need to see how long he is going to carry on with this form.

Posted by pat_one_back on (February 17, 2014, 1:22 GMT)

@aahahaa, where do you suppose nations find these new intimidatory bowlers with express speed and pinpoint accuracy??? Broad & Morne have height pace & bounce yet can't intimidate like MJ as they don't have the accuracy the angles or his deceptive bounce. Patto is quick for example but his radar is off following injury. If you just had to run in bowling short @145k to intimidate then Aust have a dozen more like him, there's far more to it, the ignorance of all those saying give it back to Aust is breathtaking, good & great bowlers have already tried & failed to emulate MJ, how do you think the inexperienced will fare??? Aust eat poor short balls for breakfast lunch and dinner, bring it on and we'll win in 3 days.

Posted by pat_one_back on (February 17, 2014, 0:34 GMT)

@Hello13, if only SA batsmen were as resilient to MJ as you! One bad match from SA, yeah sure, whatever helps you sleep but telling childish lies won't make Aust any weaker nor SA any stronger, usual hater BS from sore losers, normal service I guess.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 22:05 GMT)


Yup good point, and sidds is a great team man who'll put in all day. Swap done

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 21:56 GMT)

How come Mitchell Johnson is so fast and unplayable. What kind of diet is he on/ Just asking?

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 17:26 GMT)

It seems like Cricket have turned over once again. Not too long ago, spinners ruled the Test Arena displacing the fast men. Now, the fast men have moved up to the helm again, and the fight is on in SA v/s AUS for the fastest of them all. Its' Steyn, Morkel and Philander against Johnson, Siddle and Harris. First Blood goes to Aus. Can SA prevail ? I think so.

Posted by ModernUmpiresPlz on (February 16, 2014, 15:10 GMT)

@Dane Ponting I'd probably take Siddle over Philander. I know his avg is higher but he hasn't taken the new ball for 90% of his career. Averaging 27 when you only bowl with a beaten up ball or the pitch is too dead to offer any of the other seamers worthwhile assistance is an amazing effort, and I think completely unsung. They are similar kinds of bowlers but Siddle has more endurance so I'd pick him, and also because in that attack you would open with Johnson and Steyn, Philander would have to wait for a ball that wasn't new with a perfect seam, which is what Siddle has to do currently. Philander's danger seems to be very short lived.

Posted by vallavarayar on (February 16, 2014, 14:19 GMT)

I have a suspicion that Kallis may be as hard to replace for SA as Murali was for SL.

Posted by balajik2505 on (February 16, 2014, 13:32 GMT)

Australia made a good move by bringing in 2 relatively young players into the team. One of them was making a comeback. A winning team is a happy place and Doolan and Marsh thrived there. This could help the Aussies when their older players retire, maybe in 2 years, because by then these guys would have matured.

Posted by TheBigBoodha on (February 16, 2014, 12:54 GMT)

Hello13, would you like to give us the link to that Warner interview? But you won't because he never said anything like that. He said that there was an opportunity to score runs in India, and why would he say anything else? If you ever actually bother to watch a Warner interview rather than read out of context quotes, you wold see immediately that he is always having fun with reporters. Always! It's called a sense of humour, something a few people round here could develop. Haters will always see hate in others where it doesn't exist, but they are really only seeing themselves.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 12:37 GMT)

I'm just loving the way Australia is playing and winning. Clarke has got his team behind him along with Lehman. MJ has definately been the X-factor. I hope Aus can continue there form and beat SA 3-0. But it's still a long way to go. SA will not give up without a fight. And Aus could really get tested if say MJ and Smith get injured.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 12:36 GMT)

Mouth watering contest set up for PE. Are the champs on the rope? Can they come out swinging? Or will the brash young upstart deliver a knockout punch? Can't wait, top cricket from Australia. How about this lineup combined from both teams: Warner Smith Amla Clarke (c) AB de Villiers Steve Smith Brad Haddin (w) Mitchell Johnson Vernon Philander Dale Steyn Nathan Lyon

Sorry sidds and ryano, pipped at the post. Thoughts?

Posted by imtiazjaleel on (February 16, 2014, 12:21 GMT)

Everybody is blaming SA, but the reality is nobody can face MJ right now. He is just unplayable. But SA can do is that they get Aus out cheaply to put MJ and co. under pressure otherwise it will be one way traffic and more humiliation for SA.

Posted by ModernUmpiresPlz on (February 16, 2014, 12:18 GMT)

@Hello13 On the subject of Dave Warner I think his comments split the vote in the Australian public. I wouldn't say his views are entirely representative though, many of us would like him to maybe talk a bit less trash or at least even it out a bit, he often walks a fine line between talking up a series and being plain disrespectful. I don't really think Australia got thrashed in England though. Ian Bell thrashed us, the rest was pretty even.

Posted by PrasPunter on (February 16, 2014, 11:53 GMT)

"Chennai clay-pit" - that applies in equal measure to every pitch in india. Why only chennai ? I for once got it wrong that i was following a match played on a country-side road with lot of dust - later i realized that it was the wicket prepared for the match !!

Posted by Hello13 on (February 16, 2014, 11:39 GMT)

I remember Warner mouthing off about how he was going to score so many runs in India because the pitches are so flat. Wonder how that worked out? Ive never seen a team look so hopeless against spin, on pitches that didn't even turn. Then in England, Australia mouthed off about how poor the England team was. But then they got thrashed again! You would think that Australian cricketers would have learnt by now to keep quiet, but it doesn't seem like they have.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 10:57 GMT)

SA must focus on there opening pair thy just playing like club level cricket especially Alovira pieterson .very bad cricket all team except AB ....

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 10:35 GMT)

Its pretty interesting considering that Mitch Johnson and Ryan Harris were pretty much written off bcoz of lack of form or injury plus their ages at the start of Ashes. There were talks of Pattinson Starc and Cummins .All three got injured though and now find themselves out of the team and actually it's a good thing .The three of them need to develop their bowling and their resistance to injuries especially pattinson that guy is always injured .Its a good thing that by the time the three pacers now leave they'll have the above three and many others.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 9:55 GMT)

@solid snake: i know u r from pakistan, tell me when was last time pakistan beat australia in australia. and im talking 1 match not whole series :) and about all those comments, let me tell u, im from aus from years and i love to see aus win as much all other oz. well i talk about fact. hater gona hate...

Posted by Solid_Snake on (February 16, 2014, 9:05 GMT)

@Aditya: You skipped one series..How Aus thrashed India 4-0 in Aus :)

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 8:28 GMT)

This win makes me feel a bit (not a lot) better about England! Johnson is in great form and impossible to deal with at present (talking of impossible for batsmen, happy 60th to the great Whispering Death). Not sure what all the stuff on here about bodyline (or leg theory as it was called) is all about: Johnson clearly isn't bowling bodyline. Australia aren't a great team by any means (too many issues with the batting), but they've clearly worked out a way to win. I really hope this means a revival of proper fast (as opposed to fast medium) bowling. Nothing like it in test cricket.

Posted by games_icon on (February 16, 2014, 7:55 GMT)

As an Indian, I think Indian team should learn big time from Aussies....its not just playing and making records in India but also should show some fight and resistance in foreign pitches... Good example is playing against NZ... I was expecting a 2nd rank team trouncing an 8th ranked team... unfortunately, that wasn't the case... I think the whole 2014 will be a very dismal show from Indians as Eng and Aus will be very very very tough to beat at home...

Posted by ram91106 on (February 16, 2014, 7:50 GMT)

However Mitchell Johnson is turning out to be a horror movie for opponents...makes for compelling viewing...batsmen would probably feel like a person stuck on the rail tracks with an oncoming freight train in rushing towards them... South Africa would be too mentally scarred...however they won't surrender meekly...they are no 1 in the world for a reason...but we have to say Australia on the upswing...only pity is that we won't be delighted by a mustachioed devil and his cronies in another 5 years...Johnson,Harris,Siddle and probably would be the four horsemen of the apocalypse...with all protective equipments batsmen are deer in the headlights...the batsmen of yore who faced the fearsome four of the Windies would have to be classified as bravehearts and will be an exciting time for us Indian fans though...we have an exciting young bowler in Shami, potential 148+ bowlers in Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron...batsmen maturing really fast...dec 2014 fast please!

Posted by disco_bob on (February 16, 2014, 7:43 GMT)

@Winsome, yep, SA had a poor game. If you think they'll bounce back, from what I've seen so far, you're dreaming.

Posted by disco_bob on (February 16, 2014, 6:55 GMT)

@Supreet Singh on (February 16, 2014, 3:51 GMT "...body line bowling is a negative approch by any means..." Negative bowling, you are a comedian. How can you dismiss a side in two sessions with negative bowling. It's called Test cricket because it's tests your skill and your character. DeVilliers passed the test, he has no trouble hitting the ball, seeing the ball or scoring. If it wasn't for Mitchell Johnson we would never find out who can bat in the SA team and who are the pretenders. If everyone in the SA team could bat like deVilliers then you wouldn't be calling it negative bowling would you. And just for the record, it's not possible to bowl 'bodyline' because it is illegal to set a bodyline field. Negative bowling is what the Indians do in Australia, bowling wide of off stump with a packed 7/2 offside field

Posted by Ducky610 on (February 16, 2014, 6:46 GMT)

Can i just say that the number of Indian supporters feeling the need to rain on Australias parade is quite sad... In case you haven't noticed, this is a very different Aussie side to the one that played in India last year... 7 changes precisely from the first test in India to now... Also id like to point out that this "great" Indian side is still 1-0 in New Zealand at the moment and are having a great deal of difficulty keeping their foot on NZs throat.... But then maybe that is why India supporters are watching Australia instead

Posted by Ozzz.z on (February 16, 2014, 6:30 GMT)

@Supreet Singh, you ok mate? You seem to be showing fear yourself? Look at it this way India is the only team that completely doctor there pitches to spin and that's why your fast/medium bowlers are no good.

Posted by dunger.bob on (February 16, 2014, 6:25 GMT)

@ inefekt and Meety : Johnson gets the ball to jump and spit off a goodish length more than any other bowler I can remember. He was doing it in Adelaide of all places. And Sydney. That's 80% of it I'd say. What I mean is three out of 4 balls will behave normally and can be played normally but the 4th will bounce more than the batsman expects and suddenly he's dealing with something at his chest or head. It would play havoc with the mind I'd imagine knowing you stand a chance of being decapitated while playing a solid defensive shot to a good length ball.

Posted by kepler22b on (February 16, 2014, 6:18 GMT)

Posted by Ashik Sali on (February 16, 2014, 2:38 GMT)

You guys just got beaten by the saffa in SA and are 1 down in NZ.

You tour Australia next summer. I can confidently predict a 4-0 rout - just like the last time and the time before that.

Just how has it been since India won an overseas test? You're even blowing your chance right now because you can't get McCullum out.

Posted by wickdwitch on (February 16, 2014, 6:02 GMT)

Ian Chappell wrote an interesting article for the aussie press, and in it he talks about: "Clarke's decisive and positive attitude flows through to the team. They have faith in his decision making and there's no sign of panic when things aren't going well; instead there's confidence a wicket is around the corner." That is, the team has faith in their captain - and he in turn has faith in them. Chappelli also talks about how Clarke goes for the win from ball one ... and that I am very glad about. I don't mind a loss when chasing a win. I DO mind a loss when chasing a draw. Smith seemed to be hoping (chasing?) for a draw during the first day. And that was just giving Clarke and the team something to aim at ... and they hit it dead centre.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 5:52 GMT)

Supreet Singh...better you try to teach that "Class" thing to your Indian know good the Indian players play outside India...!!! And I dont find any reason, how people from India can think...Johnson would never be able to do this in India...??? I want to know...will India be able to win a test series right now in Australia...??? When I know...they even cant dare to visit Bangladesh....

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (February 16, 2014, 5:49 GMT)

Shaun Tait just doesn't have the control and skill that Johnson does, simple as that. Left arm or not left arm, Johnson is just better. Looking back at the Perth test in the 2010/11 series, he was actually only bowling around 140kph, but he was hooping them all over the place. That was swing bowling, this here is just well directed, true fast bowling. On any pitch, any conditions, this guy is still a great bowler.

Posted by christoph20 on (February 16, 2014, 5:25 GMT)

Meety- sean tait has slinging action as well. I thinks its a combination but especially since he is a lefty. If MJ breaks down with injury, then that will be a real test to see if this team has the merit it claims it has.

Posted by pick_at_the_seam on (February 16, 2014, 5:10 GMT)

@Supreet Singh: its okay mate. calm down. It's ok to be scared. Its going to be like- a slow tsunami. It will get to the subcontinent soon enough. Then fans can say "how did we get so badly beaten by this good (but not great) side. ". They already know mj can play there. It's okay. I would be scared too. .......I think this thing is just going grow. I think we are watching something truly special. We should be celebrating. We will when we look back. Australia needed him. test cricket needs him. kids need him. He is mojo. I'm loving this cricket!

Posted by Beertjie on (February 16, 2014, 4:52 GMT)

I'd agree with you on Watson, @David Gormley-O'Brien if Rhino too were to retire. This is because of the danger of the latter breaking down. But his selection is still non-negotiable. Even when he is replaced, will his replacement be able to remain fit for 5 days? These questions need to be answered before Watson can be consigned to history. Warner's 2 overs were suggestive - nothing more. Anyway, it's far too early to predict that the erstwhile batting woes are history. Atm. Rogers looks likely to be the one making way, but I agree that this scenario is by no means ideal.

Posted by Meety on (February 16, 2014, 4:28 GMT)

@ inefekt on (February 16, 2014, 3:48 GMT) - great comment. Lee & Ahktar were way faster than MJ. Ahktar rarely could sustain that pace as a day wore on, but Brett Lee sure could. If sheer pace = a great wicket taker, why was Sean Tait a relatively dud? He was probably even faster than Lee & Ahktar. I think MJs slingy action means the batsmen can lose sight of the ball within the arc of his delivery stride - it certainly was something batsmen complained about with Courtney Walsh as his arms use to flay about in his delivery stride. It was one of the reasons why Thommo in his heyday was so lethal as he was so side on & slingy, his back was almost facing the batsmen & the ball was hidden for a long time during his delivery action. I think MJ really hits the deck hard with his action which in turn extracts any variability there is on the pitch. Interestingly during the Ashes - Ben Stokes was bowling barely 5kph slower than MJ (he did get a few wickets) - but no one thought he was hostile!

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 4:25 GMT)

honestly the Aussie batting has been hyped up unnecessarily... I mean they were good but not exceptional... true batting skills are measured only when the batters are under pressure and every ball counts...Mitch was the terminator for the Aussies - he again showed what accurate pace bowling can do: we have seen tait ; have seen akhtar ; lee at his peak but johnson just trumped all of them with impeccable accuracy... all the others revolved around his massacre and completed the final rites.!! well done mitch..this might well be an era defining performance by him... its a shame that this potential of his was not fully utilized earlier ... else he could have ended up with 500+ wickets easily ..

Posted by arunsubbu on (February 16, 2014, 4:00 GMT)

With all the helmets,arm guards,the works ,still we see batsmen scared of bouncers at 145Kmph and still cannot execute a pull and hook shot properly...have nothing but sheer respect and awe for guys like richards,sunny gavaskar,richie richardson facing the likes of Thompson,andy roberst,garner etc and had the gall to still hook and pull sixes against them..I guess the medicine is what has turned poison for th emodern day batsmen..the protection makes them plonk their front foot and hence not in a psition to paly bouncers.on the other hand without protrction,they would hang on their back foot and the mortal fear would always have them ready for the bouncers.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 3:55 GMT)

body line bowling is a negative approch by any means. tell me how many name we hear in great bowlers with negative approach to become successful. only westindies in there prime because batsmen dont wear helmets. how many wickets johnson took without those body line bowling?? form is temperary and class is forever which johnson dont have....

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 3:51 GMT)

body line bowling is a negative approch by any means. tell me how many name we hear in great bowlers with negative approach to become successful. only westindies in there prime because batsmen dont wear helmets. how many wickets johnson took without those body line bowling?? form is temperary and class is forever which johnson dont have....

Posted by inefekt on (February 16, 2014, 3:48 GMT)

There are too many comments suggesting that the only reason for Johnson's success is his pace. We've had many fast bowlers over the years that can bowl significantly faster than what MJ has been bowling, it's nothing new to a test class batsman to face 145kph++ bowling. What Johnson has is something less tangible, I'm not sure myself exactly what it is, perhaps it's the fact he's a left armer, that he possesses a slinging action that is hard to read out of the hand or that his overall action makes it very hard to pick his length. Maybe it's a combination of all of those factors. Whatever it is, batsman simply have a very difficult time picking him. Guys like Shaoib and Lee were much quicker than MJ but they were much easier to read so that gave batsmen that little bit of extra time to react. With MJ, by the time they know a short ball is coming they only have time to put their hands in front of their faces in an act of self preservation, it's simply a basic instinct to survive.

Posted by martron on (February 16, 2014, 3:46 GMT)

Aditya Anchuri, simple answer...we sacked the South African coach! Also 3 -0 in England wasn't a true reflection of that series. I am expecting a close match in Port Elizabeth. The Saffa's will not role over that's for sure.

Posted by disco_bob on (February 16, 2014, 3:23 GMT)

@Vindaliew, yes, Australia has shown how vulnerable their batting is by scoring 3 centuries and 2 double hundred partnerships against the worlds best attack. South Africa has shown how vulnerable their batting is by revealing that they in fact only have one genuine batter able to play serious pace bowling.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2014, 2:38 GMT)

Only before the Ashes, Australia was struggling. Now look like world beaters. SA's top order exposed against quality fast bowling. This #1 is a myth. If the same Australia team travel to India, they will be humbled. Johnson would not get the bounce and speed as he does in bouncy pitches. It is good for cricket as #1 tag keeps changing. SA will be humbled for sure. Even their bowling did not look threatening.

Posted by crickeymate on (February 16, 2014, 2:35 GMT)

@vindaliew, let's see. Australia vulnerable at batting. 397 and 4/290 dec. I hope they keep on staying this vulnerable for a long time to come. To me, it doesn't matter who or how they get the runs, as long as they get them. I know you are trying to get a positive for the next test, but it is not only you batsmen that need to improve. Your bowlers, could have done the same as Mitch did, but they didn't in this test. As I said before, may the best TEAM win.

Posted by Winsome on (February 16, 2014, 2:10 GMT)

South Africa had a poor game. Their fielding was awful and that must have fed the bowlers' inertia (not Steyn's he always gives it his all). They'll bounce back next test, but gee, it's fun to watch Johnson bowl. I always knew he had it in him, but I never thought he'd be confident to let it out!

Posted by ShutTheGate on (February 16, 2014, 2:06 GMT)

Is this the changing of the guard?

Posted by heathrf1974 on (February 16, 2014, 1:31 GMT)

The only concern for Australia was Lyon wasn't getting much turn. Hopefully he'll find some in the next test. With regards to picking Watson for the next test, if the wicket is good for the bowlers then don't, if it looks good for batting then pick him so our quicks can have a decent rest between spells.

Posted by bluesuede on (February 16, 2014, 1:31 GMT)

I don't think it's Johnson's speed. I think it's his arm angle. Bowler's normally have a vertical arm, and so the batsmen's brain works in 2 dimensions. Johnson's angled arm means the batsmen have to work in 3 dimensions, and they can't pick up the trajectory as easily. Steyn, Morkel and Harris were just as fast, and were struggling to take wickets. With them, the batsmen simply watch the arm and know if it's a bouncer by watching at what point the ball is released. They can't do that with Johnson. Historically, Johnson could get his action right twice an over, but now he's getting it right four times an over. This could change fast bowlers' actions in the future.

Posted by RJHB on (February 16, 2014, 1:17 GMT)

@aahahaa, sooooo what's stopped other teams from getting 140kph+ body line bowlers, as you call them, into their teams already? Oh wait, that's right, they don't have them cos they're as rare as a Kiwi leg spinner!! Dream on buddy, and may your team feel more Aussie wrath very soon!!

Posted by dunger.bob on (February 16, 2014, 1:13 GMT)

As much as some people would like it to be true, this Aussie bowling unit doesn't actually rely on johnson taking 50% of the wickets every match. It just looks that way in this game. .. Ryan Harris is a damn fine bowler in his own right. Quicker than he looks with supreme control of an attacking line and length. He nibbles the ball around as much as anyone and has a strong, well directed bouncer. On top of all that he's clever and got a heart bigger than Australia. .. Peter Siddle has made a living out of being 'the one to hit'. Constantly under-rated but constantly threatening in a very understated way. Supremely fit and also clever. He tries to hit the top of off and is always at you. He dismissed Tendulkar as much as anyone else ever managed so he's got something going for him. .. Lyon is obviously still a work in progress. At the moment I'd say he's more effective on bouncier pitches because he puts more topspin than sidespin on the ball but he might be good enough to adjust.

Posted by Ocnay on (February 16, 2014, 0:59 GMT)

Also forgot to mention one of the great catches of the test was the spectator off Warner. Understand he was an Aussie!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Ocnay on (February 16, 2014, 0:55 GMT)

I was at the SCG for the last test near the fence in the members. When MJ bowled you could just and I mean just barely see the ball he was so fast. This is at the end of the series and he must have been stuffed. Watching SA capitulate was no surprise. A fresh MJ backed up with outrageous fielding, Siddle, Harris and dont forget Lyon. Ha ha welcome to test cricket played the traditional Aussie way. Agree that time for Watson to go faithful warrior he was and maybe still but with our new boys settling in the future is as the song goes "so bright I gotta wear shades". Looking forward to test 2 to see how SA recover from what I reckon was simply put a mauling.

Posted by CM1000 on (February 16, 2014, 0:48 GMT)

@ NorthPacifictragic - "I can see problems for the 4 bowler attack if SA can make them stay in the field for long enough." I agree, but that's a very big "if" at this stage! The main concern is Harris's knee. I think the other three will keep going, but with no Watson and only four bowlers including Lyon, they do risk a repeat of Adelaide a year ago if one of the quicks breaks down mid match. That cost them that series, being unable to finish SA off in that Test with only two quicks for the last innings, and then having to select a completely new attack for the deciding Test at the WACA a few days later due to Pattinson's mid match injury and the resulting damage and fatigue of Siddle and Hilfenhaus.

Posted by kepler22b on (February 16, 2014, 0:48 GMT)

aahahaa on (February 15, 2014, 18:55 GMT)

Pommie dreamer. Would that be Tremlett or Finn? Or is it Dernbach?

There is only one MJ running around at the moment because frightening fast bowlers are as rare as hen's teeth. And with so many countries producing rank slow pitches (particularly the last lot for the ashes in England - talk about doctored pitches) you can never develop good fast bowlers. Plus, if you want a fast bowler get rid of your Duke balls. They only encourage swing and bowlers who will always underperform elsewhere.

Posted by __PK on (February 16, 2014, 0:20 GMT)

Surely we've all seen it coming. The 4-0 loss to India contained some results that were very close. The 3-0 loss to England is now widely known as being a lot closer than the scoreline shows. England were derided as being poor when they came to Australia, but now that it's happened to SA are we still so confident about that? I was confident this would happen, as soon as I read the SA players and fans making exactly the same comments pre-series as their English counterparts did pre-Ashes.

Posted by Hello13 on (February 15, 2014, 23:40 GMT)

The way the australians behave on a cricket field is disgusting. Funny that, when they were getting smashed in India 4-0 they kept pretty quiet. Its all well and good playing well in the same conditions, if you get humiliated in different ones.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 23:11 GMT)

Mitchell Johnson you are a hero... Just shows you should never give up.

Posted by Paul_Somerset on (February 15, 2014, 22:50 GMT)

What's all this about SA's and England's "first meeting with Australia" in the first paragraph? A feeble attempt by this Australian writer to try to airbrush from history his team's comedy 3-0 humiliation in England just 6 months ago.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 22:47 GMT)

A memorable win, without a doubt, and yes, four bowlers were enough, but this will not always be the case. There will be times when one, or, God forbid, even two of the four will be off their game. I'm certainly not saying that a fifth bowler, or a bona fide all-rounder, is required. I firmly believe that this should be the start of the post- Watson era. What Pup should do is embrace the fact that Smith, Warner and himself may need to, and can, contribute the 10 - 20 overs between them that used to be expected of Watson. If this fails, which it shouldn't, Faulks is waiting in the wings. The current eleven has the makings of an incredibly good side and there is enormous back-up waiting. Six of the top seven have fairly recent Test centuries, and the other, newbie Doolan, oozes class. Bowling back-up is strong, with Patto, Starc and Bird all proven at Test level. Things look good for Australia.

Posted by Lacertilian on (February 15, 2014, 22:42 GMT)

@Vindaliew Hardly riding on Johnson alone, you have to score runs to defend. Australia had 3 centuries and South Africa had 0. @Aditya Australia were hardly 'thrashed' in England. Anyone watching the series would know that for the majority of the series they were on top but had a couple of things go against them at critical times (e.g. Weather). The series could have easily been 3-2 or 2-1, out of 5 matches, that's hardly a thrashing. 5-0 is a thrashing.

Posted by rickyvoncanterbury on (February 15, 2014, 22:24 GMT)

"Australia exceed the hype" I do not remember any hype about the Aussie batsman 14 for 687, makes life a lot easier for the bowlers.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 22:23 GMT)

marsh will drop out again. but we have better batsmen waiting a chance and a whole team of quality pacemen itching for a chance.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 22:12 GMT)

All those England fans who said six months ago 10-0 seem to have disappeared.

Posted by 58cans on (February 15, 2014, 22:07 GMT)

Cummins,Patterson,Starc and Faulker ,don't forget Bird,all waiting in the wings,no room for Watson

Posted by Hello13 on (February 15, 2014, 21:45 GMT)

Not really. It's just South Africa had a bad game. Australians have been bragging so much, will be funny to see them fall from grace.

Posted by milepost on (February 15, 2014, 21:13 GMT)

Seek and destroy. No one can match Australia now, they are the dominant side in cricket by such a margin it's scary. Well at least if you are not Australian.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 21:12 GMT)

pure domination of the saffers by the australia.the glory days are back I reckon

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 21:08 GMT)

Waiting to see Australia playing Pakistan once Irfan is playing.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 20:31 GMT)

Sincere thanks to the aussies.......for reviving the test cricket!!

Posted by jb633 on (February 15, 2014, 20:28 GMT)

I am still backing SA to come back in this series. They may not win the series but surely they can't be so bad again and will make it a contest. The key to playing Aus is surely to target their weakness against spin (on spinning decks) and their lack of a quality spinner. Their seamers are the best in the business and their batting on bouncy pitches is solid enough. Unfortunately SA have no spinners at all and playing on a spinning deck would show the world how Lyon is better than anything they have. Lyon is a good solid performer without being world class but certainly he is better than Tahir, Peterson, Botha etc. SA should try and make a slowish green seamer that will even the contest it out a touch. Johnson's main strength is pace and bounce there is little lateral movement there. Although Harris and Siddle nip the ball about a bit i think SA would fancy their chances on a slow green seamer more than the sort of pitch they played on here.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 20:06 GMT)

140+ bodyline is one thing 150+ is another. Johnson's avg speed has been 145+ if I m not mistaken. Also the accuracy is a big factor. Imagine no of wides and byes otherwise. So I don't think all teams can have such bowlers .At least for subcontinent teams barring Oak looks like an impossible thing. In NZ only Adam Milne can bowl extremely fast and that's about it. So Mitch Johnson is indeed a once in a generation bowler.

Posted by Chris_P on (February 15, 2014, 20:04 GMT)

@Forza_Scuderia. 140+ bowlers? Cummin's return to the Scorchers in his words, "bowled within himself off a shortened run-up" hit 152-3 kph. Wait till the beast is released!

Posted by Chris_P on (February 15, 2014, 20:02 GMT)

@aahahaa. That's your best option? Keep dreaming, pal.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 19:43 GMT)

Wow, how just a year changes things. One year ago, this Aussie side was thrashed 4-0 in India and then 3-0 in England. All of a sudden, they're dominating teams home and away. It's like they've all taken some kind of magic pill that turns them from no-hopers to world beaters.

Posted by Forza_Scuderia on (February 15, 2014, 19:36 GMT)

140+ bodyline bowlers? Australia have 2 more young guns in Pattinson and Cummins... They're a little fragile but that can be worked on. There's the other lefty, Stark, as well who has a dangerous in-swinging yorker.

South Africa have already felt the wrath of Cummins at Wanderers a few years ago.

I'd say things are looking up for the Aussies after Arthur ruined their cricket. They just need more stability in their batting.

Posted by neanderthal on (February 15, 2014, 19:25 GMT)

If this becomes a new trend in world cricket, this will revive test cricket like anything. Just imagine all teams trying to find 140+ bodyline bowlers. may be all teams would look for one bowler with this x factor from now on. That would be fun!

Posted by ModernUmpiresPlz on (February 15, 2014, 19:16 GMT)

@aahahaa Yep, no other bowlers bowling 140 atm, and nobody but Mitch tries to bowl bouncers at a batsman's head. Oh wait, there's tons of them, and they all do. Mitch just does it better. Sorry mate, how it looks on TV isn't the whole story, when Dennis Lillee says you're a once in a generation bowler you have something that not everybody has, and it's not just pace.

Posted by Vindaliew on (February 15, 2014, 19:15 GMT)

It seems like everyone is riding on Mitchell Johnson - he's the only real difference at the moment. As long as his support is competent they can build an attack around him. Everyone else is playing decently, but the Australians have shown that they are vulnerable when batting - it's just that with Mitchell Johnson bowling the way he's bowling right now he's put the fear of God into every batsman, and that split second of doubt and fear is all it takes.

Posted by NorthPacifictragic on (February 15, 2014, 19:12 GMT)

South Africa is a very good side and it wouldn't surprise me to see a greatly improved performance next test. As long as some of the batters get it together against Johnson, they seem to have the goods to face the other bowlers in the Aussie side. I can see problems for the 4 bowler attack if SA can make them stay in the field for log enough.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 19:08 GMT)

Now is the time for Watson to retire. We'll be right without him.

Posted by stormy16 on (February 15, 2014, 19:01 GMT)

This is really hard to beleive from the Ausies and insane as it may sound, its lilke the Aussies under Waugh - unrelenting with options on all fronts. There is no Mcgrath or Warne or Gilly but there is Smith and Warner and March and of course Mitch. Yes doesnt sound right but the results are the same - total disintegration and domination of the opponent. The insame part is Doolan made his debut and where on earth did Marsh come from? Yes Mitch is now a sensation but he needs others to perform and they have. In the ashes it was Haddin and others and now yet others, The names have been changed but the Aussies are once again looking scary.

Posted by aahahaa on (February 15, 2014, 18:55 GMT)

wait till other teams find 140+ bodyline bowlers. not be too long.

Posted by voyrison on (February 15, 2014, 18:55 GMT)

A new period of Aussie dominance.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2014, 18:41 GMT)

warner, doolan, marsh and smith are looking in good form. they just needs the consistency.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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