Off the pace – an alternative South Africa v Australia preview

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“We’ve got the best fast bowlers.”

“No, we’ve got the best fast bowlers.”

“Not being funny, but actually, I think you’ll find we’ve got the best fast bowlers.”

“Yeah, right, whatever. Have you even seen our fast bowlers?”

The build-up to what promises to be a fascinating Test series between South Africa and Australia has been a bit one-note and we haven’t really learnt much from it.

What else?

The Kallis-shaped, Kallis-sized hole

How did South Africa become the top-ranked Test side? They scored plenty of runs and they fielded four cracking seam bowlers as well as a spinner. Very few sides can manage this because very few sides can field a guy who averages eight runs more than Kevin Pietersen with the bat and who also happens to be a darn handy pace bowler in his spare time.

Of course Jacques Kallis is irreplaceable, which must therefore beg the question: how exactly are you going to replace Jacques Kallis?

Wayne Parnell and Ryan McLaren seem the most likely beneficiaries, which means shedding around 30 runs an innings and gaining precisely what in terms of bowling? Not a lot when you’re talking about a fourth or fifth bowler.

This South Africa side is not what it was.

Long handle deployment

Complete these two sequences:

  • Steyn, Philander, Morkel…
  • Johnson, Harris, Siddle…

What comes next is the word ‘attack’. If the main threat comes from the seamers, how will the batsmen approach the spinners? Probably with a fairly wild look in their eyes, you’d think.

But that goes both ways. A handful of spin bowlers can dismiss batsmen intent on survival, but there are plenty more who can outfox a psychopath who’s lost all perspective.

Robin Peterson isn’t even his mum’s favourite spin bowler, but he thinks he might profit from being underestimated and he might well be right. Nathan Lyon’s in a similar position and, as has been pointed out, how might the Ashes have gone in England had he been selected from the start?

Fast bowling

Okay, it probably warrants a mention. The one thing we would say about this is that while Mitchell Johnson’s on a six-month hot streak, Dale Steyn’s maintained a pretty decent temperature for many years. We’re not sure whether that’ll prove pertinent, but we have greater faith in the latter ‘turning up’ and then remaining ‘up’ once there.


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  1. If Mitch & Steyn are on fire, what about the Philanderer?

    His debut against Australia was like a nuclear explosion, tsunami & hurricane combined. Aussies stole the limelight with our awesome 47 all out, but Philander’s 5 for 15 runs started a hot streak that hasn’t cooled off!

  2. I am afraid you got this wrong. To replace Kallis, Parnell and McLaren should shed nothing and gain about fifty pounds.

    SA win 3-2 in the fast bowling department though. Steyn s Johnson and Morkel vs Siddle are fair comparisons, but Philander is a league above Harris.

    1. We don’t know about that. He seems particularly rickety at the minute, but Harris strikes us as being exactly the kind of bowler who’d relish a bit of day one greenery. Keep an eye on him if Australia bowl first.

    2. Can’t agree DC. Harris is about as accurate and nagging as Philander but quicker. Morkel is probably a bit more dangerous than Siddle.

    3. Fair enough, I concede. I just looked up the stats and have to say I was surprised to see how effective Harris has been. In fact, there’s little to choose between him and Philander – guess I was swayed by Philander’s popularity.

    4. There isn’t a lot to split the bowling attacks, but I would give the slight edge to South Africa due to youth, consistency and the fact that they don’t have a track record of breaking down physically and mentally.

  3. I’m a little confused as to why SA need to replace Kallis with another allrounder. Especially if it’s Wayne Parnell, who is, to put it very nicely, not Jacques Kallis. He has a first-class average of 22 with the bat. Yeah.

    By comparison, Robin Peterson averages 29 in tests with six first-class hundreds. Why not just bat him at 7 and play a bowler who’s better than Parnell? Like Kyle Abbott, who took 7/29 in his first test innings and hasn’t been in the team since. Or even just go with the four frontline bowlers plus Duminy and play another batsman at 7. I don’t know. I just don’t see how Parnell can make it into the best team in the world when he probably wouldn’t feature in the New Zealand side.

    1. Spot on. You can’t replace an all-time great all-rounder with another one just like that. England’s quest to find the new Botham in the 1990s set them back for several years.

    2. I would say go for a batsman who can roll his arm over for a few overs of fast medium if required. South Africa got to number 1 based on the fact that on any given day they had 4 brilliant batsmen and another 3 competent ones (Boucher averaged 35 with the bat).

    3. Boult, Southee and Wagner are among the best seam attacks in the world right now (and lets not forget Corey Anderson). Not making it into the NZ side as a seamer isn’t as much of an insult as it may appear at first glance.

    4. Wolf – Boucher averaged 30.30 in tests. This is important only because Tatenda Taibu averaged 30.31.

    5. moobs of inzy, that might just be my all-time favourite cricket stat. the majestic irony of those two averages (given the famous sledging incident*) is truly something to savour

      * yes, i know most people probably didn’t need that spelling out – but some possibly did!

  4. South Africa without question, it will be interesting to see how Australia’s batsmen will react to bowlers in the second innings having longer than a days (at best) rest.

    Also interesting to see how Johnson will bowl to competent batsmen.

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