Australia in South Africa 2013-14 February 17, 2014

Steyn needs better support - Ntini

There was only one winner of the fast-bowling contest at Centurion Park, but Makhaya Ntini believes South Africa can turn the tables if Dale Steyn is given the support that Mitchell Johnson receives

It was billed as a battle of the bowlers and after one round there is already a clear leader. Mitchell Johnson's 12 for 127 was the difference between Australia and South Africa in Centurion and poured cold water on the flames that were supposed to spark between him and Dale Steyn. But that does not mean the clash can be called just yet.

Even though the series is moving to more placid pitches in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, Makhaya Ntini thinks South Africa's attack can still have their say. For that to happen, he told ESPNcricinfo, they have to allow Steyn to operate at his most effective and the rest of the line-up to conform to their roles better than they did in the first Test.

"Steyn needs to bowl in four or five over spurts when you can get 100% from him. That's how to use him as a main strike bowler and nothing else. Then he can bowl at 145kph and faster through the spell," Ntini said, suggesting that Steyn should be managed in the same way Johnson is by Australia.

While Steyn did not bowl a spell longer than five overs at Centurion, typically he starts off with a six-over burst at the beginning of innings and follow-up spells are about five-overs long. The pattern was not exactly that in the first Test but Steyn was still South Africa's most used pace bowler, sending down 29 overs in the first innings, more than Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Ryan McLaren, and 43.2 overs in the match compared to the 35 Philander and Morkel offered up. The difference was markedly less with Australia's attack. Johnson bowled 33.1 overs in the match compared to Ryan Harris' 29.4 and Peter Siddle's 29.

Steyn's stamina despite his upset stomach was impressive, but the back-up bowlers less so. "He wasn't feeling very well, which is one thing and we all know how capable he is," Ntini said "If you can see Steyn is bowling at 60% and doesn't have the energy and isn't aggressive then someone else should take over. They shouldn't all go flat."

McLaren admitted South Africa's attack dropped their intensity after lunch on the first day and because conditions also became easier for batting that allowed Australia to get away. In lulls like that, Ntini would like to see Morkel "taking over," and someone else like McLaren doing a holding job so that Steyn can be "only used in critical moments." And in those moments, Ntini would like him to see him use his licence to attack strategically.

"When you are the leader of the attack you have to plan your bowling so that you don't overuse any delivery. You can't be bowling six bouncers in a row, you have to know when it's time to attack. In general, South Africa overuse the short ball and you can see Australia have a game plan for that."

Luckily, Steyn does not have to rely on the bouncer excessively. Jason Gillespie believes Steyn's main weapon is "bowling the fuller ball, challenging the pads, stumps and outside edge" and said his "consistency with line, length and pace make him a constant threat."

Johnson poses the same kind of danger, but for different reasons. "Johnson comes in from a different angle, a bit slingy, which makes it more difficult to judge. Slingy bowlers can bowl the same length ball for a different result," Gillespie said. "For example a short-pitched ball can pass the batsman at sternum height or nose height so the unpredictability is always in the back of the mind."

With Steyn batsmen are more aware of what they are going to get but that does mean it is any more comfortable. "With Steyn, I believe batsmen don't have that fear of getting hurt, it is simply the fear of getting out," Gillespie said.

Ntini thinks South Africa can come into their own by operating as a unit to make Steyn's wicket-taking ability more dangerous. Johnson is Australia's outright threat, he is able to do that because Harris and Siddle play their part. "Siddle bowls 99% of deliveries in the same area," Ntini said. "He helps create pressure."

McLaren should be the person doing the same role for South Africa and Ntini would stick with him rather than opt for Wayne Parnell. "Nobody can be judged on only one game," he said. "If you use Parnell, your three seamers are offering the same thing in terms of pace. You don't need that in Port Elizabeth."

So what do you need there? "You just have to hit proper lengths," Ntini said. "You need someone to be a boring bowler, going at two runs to the over and keeping it outside off stump because for one of those balls the batsman is going to play the wrong line."

That could mean a twist in this bowling battle with the stage set for the official No.1, Philander, who has barely been spoken about in the contest of the quicks at all, to do this thing. "Why not?" asked Ntini.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Desiree on February 19, 2014, 7:54 GMT

    the problem is that the selectors decided to try to replace Kallis with other all-rounders. This may be okay for ODI's & T20's, but you can't hide a second-rate all-rounder in a test match - he will be very quickly exposed. This is what happened to McLaren & although, I don't want to be the prophet of doom, the same will probably happen if they decide to play Parnell. He bats okay, at times. However, his bowling is usually wayward, inconsistent & expensive. They should rather choose a specialist batsman & another seam bowler.

  • shyam on February 19, 2014, 6:19 GMT

    i believe mr. lehman already made provision for what ntini thoiught...he is a champion coach...

  • Dummy4 on February 18, 2014, 22:18 GMT

    Agree with the assessment. Steyn needs to be used like clarke is using mitch. Steyn is still a better bowler than mitch who still tends to spray all around. At the moment though mitch is mentally dominating the batters. I am disappointed to morkel and philander thoroughly. They are bowling much like how indian bowlers are bowling. Morkel esp who was so good against India doesnt look close to threatening against aussies. Except ABD and steyn, even saffers body language looks disappointing.

  • Amol on February 18, 2014, 15:01 GMT

    Yes, except Steyn, the remaining bowling betrayed SA. I hope they get on top of their own rhythm in the remaining two do-or-die tests. They NEED to beat AUS at home to be called the one of the best teams ever some years from now. And ...they need to do it NOW.

  • Nicholas on February 18, 2014, 11:38 GMT

    Clarke rotates his bowlers really well, and Johnson's current form is not only testament to the guy [MJ] himself, but also fabulous management by Boof, Clarke et al. Having just one bowler doing all the work is seldom going to win many series; e.g. look at Warne during the 2005 Ashes: highest wicket-taker of the series by far but still ended up on the losing side because he didn't have much back-up. This current Australian side have now got their balance absolutely perfect in my opinion: Johnson the big spearhead who is so formidable at the moment (and long may it continue); Harris who can just as easily be thick amongst the wickets on another day, and ensures no let-off for the batsmen; Siddle perhaps one of the most nagging, miserly, probing, irritable bowlers in test cricket at the moment; and last but not least Lyon: yes he's not a Warne-incarnate, but why should he be? He is performing his role perfectly; i.e. mixing things up, keeping the pressure on, snaring the odd victim.

  • Dummy4 on February 18, 2014, 10:55 GMT

    I agree wholeheartedly with Nuxxy. Rather select a proper batsman & a proper seam bowler. You can't just replace Jacques Kallis with just anybody. And in any case no cricket manual says that you HAVE to have an all-rounder in the side!!!! Test cricket is not the same as one day cricket!!!

  • cobus on February 18, 2014, 10:43 GMT

    @velchel: what about here weakness and here batting?

  • Mashuq on February 18, 2014, 9:24 GMT

    Excellent comments all of which I endorse, @SurlyCynic. Philander to be that containing bowler. de Lange is at the same stage of rehab as Starc. This is why he's not available yet. Abbott hasn't been in great form recently but Hendricks has. Both should have been in the squad but conservative selectors have played their part perfectly, as usual. That said a spinner could play that containing role too, even against the Ozzies. What kind of #1 team is this?

  • Dummy4 on February 18, 2014, 9:01 GMT

    Best way to win against Australia, is to expose there weakness. The only weakness I see as of now is there batting. Need to shop them scoring big runs and put pressure on there bowling. They are very strong in bowling department and SA batsmen's should find out a way to handle Mitchell Johnson. Some one should break Johnson's rhythm. We have seen in the past he can be wayward at times.

  • Dummy4 on February 18, 2014, 8:24 GMT

    Yeah, South Africa did not have a great test in Centurion. Dropping a man twice, Steyn clearly not at 100 percent as the commentators noted on the first day and confirmed later. A poor decision to allow Australia to bat first ect.If it not your day ist not your day and unlike the English Team I do not think we should hang our heads and believe ist the end of the world, react in that way. We also seriously have to look at spin. In Tahir we have a talented spinner and he has shown this against Pakistan but the selctors seem intent on returning us to that old fashioned, boring style cricket of the 90s. Steyn for instance use to attack the wickets a lot more and wonder how much Donald, as great as he was, has influenced this Change in the South African Bowling attitude? Lets get more agressive, lets not stand back for These blokes. We can win.

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