Proteas face tough battle Down Under
It seems like yesterday that the Proteas defeated England in fine fashion to move to the number one ranking in the world of test cricket.
Since then the World T20 has come and gone and this weekend the national team departs for Australia to do battle with the Aussies Down Under in what will be a very exciting test series. The last time the same sequence of events happened South Africa beat England in England and then defeated Australia on home soil as well.
Can the Proteas repeat history a second time? The answer is an emphatic yes. Australia is a competent test team but by no means a great one. On home soil they are always difficult to beat and this time won’t be an exception. Since South Africa beat Australia in Australia a few years ago the Aussies turned the tables in South Africa straight after that by winning the series here and then last season came from nowhere to draw the series after being humiliated at Newlands during the first of two test matches.
Those results are a clear indication that even in a transitional phase the Aussies never lie down. They know that they face a strong challenge from the Proteas. All the talk coming out of Australia indicates that they are only too aware of how good the Proteas test team is. Hence they have been preparing very well, both physically and mentally.
All their respective players have been actively playing first class cricket. Ricky Ponting in particular has been in impressive form in the Sheffield Shield competition. The Australian test squad members are all playing in a Sheffield Shield match starting next week as part of the preparation for the test and then convening in Brisbane five days before the all-important first test match.
The Proteas are preparing along the same lines for this series as they did in England. The method of short preparation certainly worked there. Since the completion of the England series and the World T20, the majority of the Proteas test squad has played very little and in some cases no cricket at all. There is one match against Australia 'A' in Sydney before the first test. There will be some practice days as well in order to get used to conditions and present a team that is ready for battle during the first test.
The major difference between the Australian team the Proteas will face over the next month and the England team that they defeated to reach the number one spot in the world is team harmony. As it turned out, England were defeated by a magnificent performance by a top test nation but they also defeated themselves from within with endless in-fighting that destroyed the morale of the team. This prohibited them from playing to the best of their ability.
The Aussies will be very different. Michael Clarke is a good captain and although on paper Australia may not be as strong as England appeared they will be a unified team under the auspices of the Baggy Green. This in itself will mean that Australia will make every effort to play to the best of their ability.
If both teams succeed in maximising their talent over the three test matches the Proteas should have the edge. I am hoping this will happen because if it does we will witness a terrific series and a win for the Proteas.