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
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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

  • deegee1903 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.

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

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

  • 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_Gh 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.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK 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.

  • 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!!!

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

    @velchel: what about here weakness and here batting?

  • Beertjie 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • deegee1903 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.

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

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

  • 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_Gh 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.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK 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.

  • 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!!!

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

    @velchel: what about here weakness and here batting?

  • Beertjie 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • ats78 on February 18, 2014, 7:36 GMT

    As an indian I am not defending them, but if South Africa have such hard time in their own backyard what to expect from countries like India Pak SL, where there is no bounce and than they play in places like Aus SA and Nz. I think its advantage home side always but i think the way this Aussie team is playing I see the old team of the 90s and 2000 coming back. It will be a good series Vs India i hope. South africa will loose 3-0. i think and Smith will definitely give up his captaincy..letsee...

  • brenno23 on February 18, 2014, 6:24 GMT

    @Aussasinator, I wouldn't start throwing chat about how Australia's batsmen supposedly can't play genuine pace and bounce when South Africa showed that they are completely hapless against the same thing at Centurion.

    I think the relief which the South African's are expecting on a more placid PE wicket mightn't come, Johnson (along with Harris and Siddle) showed during the Ashes tests in Adelaide and Melbourne that this is still a dangerous bowling attack, even on slower and less bouncy wickets. That said it should be an interesting contest and I'm expecting South Africa to come back hard.

  • JJJake on February 18, 2014, 5:44 GMT

    The Aussie batters don't have too much trouble playing pace. Rogers,Warner,Doolan,Marsh and Haddin all have been picked because they play bounce and pace well. Spin on the other hand seems to trouble them. Only Clarke and Smith play well. The WACCA and Brisbane are harder/faster and have more bounce than SA grounds. If SA had a good spinner maybe the Aussies would be concerned.

  • Seether1 on February 18, 2014, 5:43 GMT

    @SurlyCynic: I think Makhaya was referring to the fact that Morkel, Steyn and Parnell bowl at similar pace. Although recently Steyn is probably the slowest of the trio, their average speeds are pretty similar.

  • Nuxxy on February 18, 2014, 5:16 GMT

    The main weakness is the SA attack is that after 30 overs when the ball ages, you have another 50 where nothing happens unless Steyn conjures some reverse. The spinners can't even hold up and end, and pose no threat whatsoever. It makes you realise who underrated the bowling of Kallis and even Paul Harris was. I cannot understand how they keep picking Robin Peterson for his batting when his main job is to bowl, and Duminy for his bowling when his main job is to bat. Drop them both, and get a proper bowler and a proper batsman.

  • Vishnu27 on February 18, 2014, 4:45 GMT

    As opposed to how well England handled "genuine pace & bounce", Aussasinator???? LOL! The funniest comment. Where have you been all these long months? We've missed you. Thanks for showing up again & for the instant fun. Brilliant stuff

  • dunger.bob on February 18, 2014, 4:38 GMT

    Everyone seems to have forgotten that much of our success in the first test was because of outstanding innings from a rookie and a recalled flop. Marsh made nearly 200 by himself which is about what SA managed in both innings. My point is all South Africa really has to do is work on those two in particular and stop their runs. If they can do that and bowl well enough to every one else it will go a long way towards keeping a lid on it. All this talk of changing 3 or 4 players sounds a bit desperate and not at all becoming of the #1 side. .. just saying.

  • pulkit10 on February 18, 2014, 4:33 GMT

    They're playing too defensive a game here and paying the price for it. With a team like SA, they should not even think of being complacent. Previously, the SA attack thrived on having Philander keep things quiet and tidy, Morkel keeping the batsmen pinned down while Steyn can come in and function as the strike bowler. Now, they're trying to get all three to do the exact same thing. For this to end, Philander needs to step up and do what he has been doing for the past 2-3 years - land the ball a shade outside off at just back of a length and Morkel needs to get his lines right. This allows Steyn to focus on what he does best as opposed to bowling 6-8 overs while trying to restrict batsmen. He enjoys threatening the batsmen and Smith needs to ensure he is able to do that.

    Also, while at it, they need to get a decent pacer in - either someone who can really keep it tight with Philander or someone who is actually able to actively get batsmen out.

  • MinusZero on February 18, 2014, 4:30 GMT

    Where is Abbott? He had the best figures in a innings last year

  • Vishnu27 on February 18, 2014, 4:30 GMT

    Aussasinator: where have you been???? So silent for so so so long!! Finally piping up again. Oh the misery of England's utter wretchedness as it continues beyond such an impressive cricketing meltdown on the grandest scale. What a bodycount as well, from just a single tour downunder. It must hurt & rankle so deeply. Your pain is palpable.

  • disco_bob on February 18, 2014, 4:14 GMT

    If we are able to win this match without a meaningful contribution from Rogers, that would give Lehman the perfect opportunity to test Hughes at no. 1 in the following dead rubber.

  • disco_bob on February 18, 2014, 4:12 GMT

    I think SA are going to have to realise that they have been ambushed partly by their own complacency and denial. It will be an achievement if they can manage to lose by less than 150.

  • neelabhsamvatsar on February 18, 2014, 3:52 GMT

    all those who were dismissed by johnson must look at how they were dismissed? A bowler never takes a wicket. A batsmen commit a mistake and a wicket is taken by bowler.brink de kock, parnell and tahir. Remove alviro, mclaren and robin petreson. also bring kyle abbott. please.

  • FurqanKhan on February 18, 2014, 3:35 GMT

    I think the over emphasizeness on an all-rounder is not good. S.A should play 4 seamers with either mclaren or parnell who would also bat at 8 and play 7 batsmen. Alviro petersen doesnt look to be a horse of a long race as he struggles against good bowling attacks like he did against Pak and now Australia. Duminy as a test batsman has not done anything apart from tht 160 odd against australia. So batting is a concern also as Mitch will be ready at 20th to run through the gates again...!!!!

  • Alexk400 on February 18, 2014, 3:24 GMT

    Morkel , philander were impotent long time. with this rate SA gona make steyn get injured with too much load. They need better bowlers to complement steyn.

  • Dirtysneakers on February 18, 2014, 3:22 GMT

    @Aussasinator can I ask what makes you say we can't place pace at all? In fact we had an intra match due to the washed out warm up game where our batsmen faced pattinson, Johnson and Harris? Our batsmen made runs particularly Phil Hughes who made 84. Not really sure where you pulled that one from.

  • xtrafalgarx on February 18, 2014, 0:46 GMT

    If Steyn could take wickets as regularly as Johnson did during the test, he wouldn't have bowled as many overs as he did!

  • heathrf1974 on February 17, 2014, 21:50 GMT

    The SA bowlers need to bowl more balls that will will hit the wickets and not outside off stump. That would be a good start.

  • ModernUmpiresPlz on February 17, 2014, 21:08 GMT

    @Aussasinator I think both Australia and South Africa play pace and bounce pretty well actually. Doesn't mean it won't get you out sometimes.

  • mmoosa on February 17, 2014, 21:06 GMT

    @ SurlyCynic...agree totally....However i Disagree with Ntini...Dale has battled to play the enforcer role in 4 of the last 5 tests...Many batsmen have cottoned onto his method of bowling fast medium pace with the new ball and know that Vernon is only lethal if theres plenty of movement off the seam.Otherwise theres not much physical threat with the new cherry.Mokel has to take the new ball,Parnell needs a run in the test team and i guess Elgar will replace Robin Petersen.

  • Aussasinator on February 17, 2014, 19:57 GMT

    Marchant De lange in place of McLaren? some genuine pace and bounce please, which Oz batsmen cannot play at all.

  • Vaughanographic on February 17, 2014, 19:05 GMT

    A good point made by Ntini - I would like to see Philander bowling more overs tying up an end. It would be nice if we could get a spinner to do that too... fat chance though currently...

  • ModernUmpiresPlz on February 17, 2014, 18:53 GMT

    Philander is definitely the same type of bowler as Siddle., but he's got a slower top speed and has far less endurance (those mid 120's dollies he was bowling at the end of day 1 were pathetic). When you see them both in the same match it's actually blindingly obvious. He's had a great start to his career but he isn't going to average 18 for the whole of his career unless he retires pretty soon, bowls only on greentops or faces some pretty bad opposition. He averaged 97 in the first test, interested to see how much damage Australia end up inflicting on his stats.

  • SurlyCynic on February 17, 2014, 18:50 GMT

    I don't understand the statement that with Parnell your "your three seamers are offering the same thing in terms of pace". It's baffling.

    Philander is a medium pacer who takes wickets when the ball is new. When it's old he is a containing bowler. With McLaren it means half the attack are military medium! Parnell offers pace and left arm variation to go with Steyn's swing and pace, Morkel's bounce and Philander's tight medium pace. Surely this is a more varied attack instead of the toothless McLaren?

    Yes, I'd probably select the likes of Hendricks or Abbott ahead of Parnell, but out of the bizarre squad they've chosen he is a far better option than McLaren. And runs with the bat don't come into it as Johnson destroyed McLaren.

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  • SurlyCynic on February 17, 2014, 18:50 GMT

    I don't understand the statement that with Parnell your "your three seamers are offering the same thing in terms of pace". It's baffling.

    Philander is a medium pacer who takes wickets when the ball is new. When it's old he is a containing bowler. With McLaren it means half the attack are military medium! Parnell offers pace and left arm variation to go with Steyn's swing and pace, Morkel's bounce and Philander's tight medium pace. Surely this is a more varied attack instead of the toothless McLaren?

    Yes, I'd probably select the likes of Hendricks or Abbott ahead of Parnell, but out of the bizarre squad they've chosen he is a far better option than McLaren. And runs with the bat don't come into it as Johnson destroyed McLaren.

  • ModernUmpiresPlz on February 17, 2014, 18:53 GMT

    Philander is definitely the same type of bowler as Siddle., but he's got a slower top speed and has far less endurance (those mid 120's dollies he was bowling at the end of day 1 were pathetic). When you see them both in the same match it's actually blindingly obvious. He's had a great start to his career but he isn't going to average 18 for the whole of his career unless he retires pretty soon, bowls only on greentops or faces some pretty bad opposition. He averaged 97 in the first test, interested to see how much damage Australia end up inflicting on his stats.

  • Vaughanographic on February 17, 2014, 19:05 GMT

    A good point made by Ntini - I would like to see Philander bowling more overs tying up an end. It would be nice if we could get a spinner to do that too... fat chance though currently...

  • Aussasinator on February 17, 2014, 19:57 GMT

    Marchant De lange in place of McLaren? some genuine pace and bounce please, which Oz batsmen cannot play at all.

  • mmoosa on February 17, 2014, 21:06 GMT

    @ SurlyCynic...agree totally....However i Disagree with Ntini...Dale has battled to play the enforcer role in 4 of the last 5 tests...Many batsmen have cottoned onto his method of bowling fast medium pace with the new ball and know that Vernon is only lethal if theres plenty of movement off the seam.Otherwise theres not much physical threat with the new cherry.Mokel has to take the new ball,Parnell needs a run in the test team and i guess Elgar will replace Robin Petersen.

  • ModernUmpiresPlz on February 17, 2014, 21:08 GMT

    @Aussasinator I think both Australia and South Africa play pace and bounce pretty well actually. Doesn't mean it won't get you out sometimes.

  • heathrf1974 on February 17, 2014, 21:50 GMT

    The SA bowlers need to bowl more balls that will will hit the wickets and not outside off stump. That would be a good start.

  • xtrafalgarx on February 18, 2014, 0:46 GMT

    If Steyn could take wickets as regularly as Johnson did during the test, he wouldn't have bowled as many overs as he did!

  • Dirtysneakers on February 18, 2014, 3:22 GMT

    @Aussasinator can I ask what makes you say we can't place pace at all? In fact we had an intra match due to the washed out warm up game where our batsmen faced pattinson, Johnson and Harris? Our batsmen made runs particularly Phil Hughes who made 84. Not really sure where you pulled that one from.

  • Alexk400 on February 18, 2014, 3:24 GMT

    Morkel , philander were impotent long time. with this rate SA gona make steyn get injured with too much load. They need better bowlers to complement steyn.