Australia in South Africa 2013-14

Harris, Haddin, Rogers to push on

Daniel Brettig

March 6, 2014

Comments: 99 | Text size: A | A

Australia are overjoyed after sealing the series 2-1, South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 5th day, March 5, 2014
Australia's win in Cape Town was the crowning moment of a summer in which the Ashes were also regained at home © Getty Images
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Australia's coach and selector Darren Lehmann wants to keep the conquering Test team of 2013-14 together for as long as possible, declaring that the senior trio of Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris and Chris Rogers can all have a place on the 2015 Ashes tour provided they keep performing in the current vein.

The tourists' tense but ultimately successful hunt for victory in South Africa on the final day of the Newlands Test was the crowning moment of a summer in which the Ashes were also regained at home - a dual achievement to rate with anything achieved by Australian teams in a single season. Not since 1994-95 when Mark Taylor's men followed up an Ashes jaunt by the ending of West Indies' 15-year unbeaten reign at the top of world cricket have two more significant series victories been fit into a similar period.

Harris, Haddin and Rogers were all integral to that achievement, adding enormous experience, nous and grit to the team. Their performances on the field were spinal also, from Harris' courageous defiance of considerable knee and hip pain to secure the win at Newlands to Rogers' steadying presence at the top of the order and Haddin's combination of brazen batting and tidy glovework.

All have expressed an interest in going on to 2015, Rogers and Harris hopeful of Ashes berths while Haddin has set himself the goal of being part of a winning World Cup team at home earlier in the year. Lehmann has shown little tendency to shuffle his teams on the basis of age, and indicated that all three can make it to the Ashes provided they continue to churn out runs, wickets and dismissals. "If they're playing well they'll play," he said. "If they're not they wont. It's pretty simple."

Lehmann's explanation for the team's ability to win in South Africa, their first overseas Test series triumph since the 2012 tour of the West Indies, revolved largely around the improvement in Australia's batting. First innings runs from the top order under pressure at Centurion and Newlands gave a fearsome bowling attack plenty of time and scoreboard weight, something Harris, Mitchell Johnson and company took rich advantage of.

"We found the ability to cope with a high-class bowling unit. They're a very good bowling attack, South Africa. That's why they're number-one in the world," Lehmann said. "Our batters can take a lot of credit for what they did in this series. In Australia it was more about the bowlers actually bowling them out and batters probably not doing their role well enough, but here they were outstanding, obviously apart from Port Elizabeth where the first innings we were pretty disappointing.

"I'm pleased for the lads and pleased the way we played. Obviously in Australia we were outstanding and for two Test matches here we were outstanding. It's probably only in Port Elizabeth we were disappointing. The way we played overall was exceptional. The brand of cricket we played, we talk about that all the time, the positive brand, if we keep doing that and backing it up each and every day we'll keep improving. I'm pleased with the way they [players] have bought in to what we're about as a team."

From the day of his coaching appointment in Bristol last year, a mere two weeks before the first of two Ashes series, Lehmann has preached a message that goes beyond the winning of matches. He wants to do so in style, with attacking cricket and entertainment for spectators running far in advance of any desire to avoid defeat. The victories in South Africa achieved just that, and Lehmann said he hoped other teams would now follow suit.

"We're not afraid to lose and trying to play the brand of cricket to win Test matches," Lehmann said bluntly of the difference he saw between Australia and South Africa. "It's easy to say that now in hindsight but the way we always push for victories is always important for us. We're happy to lose, but also happy to play cricket in the right way that entertains the crowd.

"Obviously the crowd came in at the end of the day but it was a pretty disappointing crowd for a couple of days here in Cape Town. We want to get people coming through the gates. If other teams want to play on flat wickets and make it quite dull, if you like, then that's their choice."

Some questions have been raised about the overt aggression demonstrated by several of Australia's players on the final day at Newlands, and the captain Michael Clarke admitted to "overstepping the mark" in his verbal joust with Dale Steyn. Lehmann however stated his contentment at the conduct of the series.

"Very happy. It was always going to be a tough series against the No. 1 team in the world, but it's always been the same for many years," he said. "Michael plays it hard, Dale Steyn plays it hard, Graeme Smith was outstanding for a leader for South Africa and he played it very hard. The way it was played, I'm really happy with that."

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

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Posted by Redbackfan on (March 10, 2014, 4:07 GMT)

We need to bring youth into the team as long as they deserve it based on shield form and the home series against India is a great time to do that. I would keep one of these three as your veteran type player and Ryan Harris would suit age wise pending fitness. Hughes to replace Rogers is the obvious choice and Whiteman/Hartley/Paine to replace Haddin. As for number 3 Doolan and Marsh are not up to it, North, White, Cooper or Lynn should be in contention. Watson if fully fit should stay at 6 but if not Faulkner should replace him if you want an all rounder or White would suit as a number 6 batsmen.

Posted by BradmanBestEver on (March 8, 2014, 12:38 GMT)

Yes the Australian dominance of test cricket is a natural occurring phenomena.

Not only have we produced the best cricket talent over the history of the game, we also have produced the toughest cricketers. Thus Australia is the envy of the world when it comes to things cricket. Such is life.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 12:08 GMT)

Please let these players tour England next year. Whilst I respect Harris & Rogers; Haddin, Warner, Watson & rather surprisingly Clarke have shown themselves to be complete .............They will be taken to the cleaners on nice low, slow seaming, swinging wickets next year. The Aussie middle order won't make 200 runs between them. Australia haven't won in England since 2001 & that isn't going to change any time soon.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 11:24 GMT)

As much as i would like to see it, i dont think it will happen as harris, haddin and rogers will be 36, 38 & 38 respectively. At that age your reflexes slow down and in this curent game which is played at such breakneck speed they wont be able to cope up as pointing & tendulkar, two of the greats, found out in their final years. A team like Australia with it's talent pool should be able to find suitable replacements without much trouble, and besides, you still have mitch!

Posted by line.and.length on (March 8, 2014, 10:12 GMT)

I'm really trying to keep my excitement in check.. But the era of Oz dominance is fast approaching. playing only to win, and trying to draw is just not on... many more series wins coming up, not drawn series... normal service is definitely being restored

Posted by BradmanBestEver on (March 8, 2014, 9:57 GMT)

Rule # 1: The only thing that is relevant is PERFORMANCE

Rule # 2: see Rule #1

Posted by pat_one_back on (March 8, 2014, 8:29 GMT)

Hopefully ageism in selection was put to bed with the apology to Katich and selection of Rogers. Massive Kudos to the selectors for sticking with Harris this test, someone needed a rest & bringing Patto in certainly helped the win. Harris may not have enough time left to find form after a lay off but who would dare tell him that, who knows he's been bowling so long injured any improvement to his knee may just do for another Ashes tilt.

Posted by Chris_P on (March 8, 2014, 7:05 GMT)

@ Greatest_Game. BTW< Here's passing on my best wishes in your upcoming battle. Beat it & get back to getting stuck into us again. Cheers.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (March 8, 2014, 5:27 GMT)

In response to my comment that SA prepared pitches that did not suit their bowlers, Marcio suggested to me "You are not trying very hard, are you? I agree that the tracks vs India favoured India heavily, but to suggest that these slow, flat surfaces favoured Australia defies all logic."

You appear to be trying very hard to ignore the content of my post, and pick a fight were there is none. Under no circumstances can it be inferred that I suggested that the tracks favoured Australia. That is a figment of your imagination. Grind that axe somewhere else.

My point is - read this carefully - that the tracks worked against SA. SA's bowlers thrive on tracks that seam and swing - the moving ball is their strength. None of the tracks offered that. Centurion had bounce, which Johnson loved, but without swing & seam movement it waswas not of much use to SA's bowlers.

I ONLY mentioned SA's bowlers. Your claim that I suggested the low, flat tracks favored Aus has no basis in fact. Get real.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (March 8, 2014, 5:12 GMT)

@stonk on (March 7, 2014, 3:19 GMT), I'd agree with you that Australia are playing better than any other team at the moment but the rankings do and always have taken into account results over a much longer period of time than just a couple of series. It takes sustained success to get to the top. If Australia keep up their current standard then they will get there and then it will take more than a couple of bad series by them or a couple of good series by someone else to knock them off. Obviously there are all sorts of ways that you could design the algorithm to calculate rankings but there's no such thing as a perfect one. No matter what you do, there will always be people that disagree with it.

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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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South Africa v Australia at Centurion - Mar 14, 2014
Australia won by 6 wickets (with 30 balls remaining)
South Africa v Australia at Durban - Mar 12, 2014
Australia won by 5 wickets (with 2 balls remaining)
South Africa v Australia at Port Elizabeth - Mar 9, 2014
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South Africa v Australia at Cape Town - Mar 1-5, 2014
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