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No favours for SA from the Aussies

Nothing can be read into the recently completed practice match between the Proteas and Australia A. The Aussies planned this match pretty well as far as strategy is concerned.

The pitch at the Sydney Cricket Ground was a feather bed. There was no help for the bowlers. This is a far cry from the conditions that normally prevail at The Gabba where the first match of the series will be played.

The Gabba is my old home ground in Brisbane. The pitch there hasn’t changed through the years. It is an excellent surface that offers a very good contest between bat and ball. Fast bowlers in particular enjoy The Gabba. The pitch offers steep bounce and sideways movement.

Brisbane is tropical and when overhead conditions are favourable the ball swings as well. There is every chance that there will be a result in this match. It is the first time since readmission that the Proteas will be playing at The Gabba, which will be a different challenge in itself. The Aussies have a pretty good record there.

In terms of preparation the surface where the practice match was played bears no resemblance to the conditions that will be on offer come Friday for the first test. This is exactly why South Africa tried to get the practice match moved out of Sydney and up to the Sunshine State. Their request was denied, which was no surprise.

The Aussies have made this series a priority and they are not likely to do the Proteas any favours by providing them with conditions in practice matches that will assist them in their quest to be well prepared for the first test. One can hardly blame them for that. It is called home ground advantage!

The best thing that came out of the match was the fact that Dale Steyn had a good workout with the ball. Dale is one of those bowlers who get better the more he bowls and the overs under his belt from this match will help a great deal.

The batsman got some time in the middle as well. That can’t do any harm. The only problem being that they will face totally different conditions during the first test.

The Aussies have their own problems. The biggest one is the calf injury to Shane Watson, which has resulted in him being ruled out of the first test match. Watson is a key member of the Australian team as he gives the Australian combination options and provides the selectors with the opportunity to pick a balanced combination. His unavailability is a massive blow to the Aussies.

Ricky Ponting has a minor hamstring strain, but is expected to play. Apart from that there shouldn’t be too many surprises in the Australian starting XI as far as selection is concerned.

I believe that if both teams play to the best of their ability over the three-match series South Africa will come out on top and retain their number one position at the top of the world test rankings.

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