Illustration: michaelmucci南京夜网The last time South Africa won a series against Australia on home soil, Bill Lawry was the visiting skipper, primary school kids were still working on their decimal currency conversions and humankind’s representative had just landed on the moon.
That 4-0 hammering in the opening months of 1970 came immediately after Australia’s arduous five-Test series in India, the players were sick and tired and South Africa had some fresh geniuses in Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock.
After 10 weeks in India, Australia then played four Tests in South Africa through to mid-March.
There were no business-class flights and no WAGS paid to visit. In fact, there was very little salary. If modern millionaire players complain about bulging schedules, they should have a chat to some of the guys from that sojourn.
There has never been much between the two teams since the new era of the republic. In 1994, Allan Border’s men drew the series 1-1. The third Test at Kingsmead completed the career of Australia’s most resilient captain.
It is not completely edifying to label two Test matches in a row a series, but that was all that could be managed three years ago. The spoils were shared with two very different results, although Australia’s two-wicket win to level the series could have easily gone the home team’s way but for half-centuries to Brad Haddin and Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson’s rapid 40 in pursuit of 300 on a cracking fifth-day pitch.
Neither side would have been completely happy with its performances, although the Australian comeback at Johannesburg after the Cape Town debacle was admirable. The South Africans acutely felt the sting of that loss as they thought the series was all but won going into the last day. The local media had talked up the fact that they could have the first series win in the new era and South Africa had only won 12 times against Australia since the Boer War.
History will again be challenged over the next five weeks.
Australia has made changes to the touring party due to injury, but at least these alterations have come early enough to allow Moises Henriques and Phil Hughes to get their heads around Test cricket again. The loss, once again to injury, of Shaun Marsh looks inconsequential. His selection was as mysterious as the fallacious reasoning of chairman of selectors John Inverarity – ”he was in a good head space”.
It would be much better if he was in a deep, dark, diabolical head space if it meant he could make more first-class runs and average better than 30-odd. I always thought runs were the currency that bought selection rather than amateur psychoanalysis.
Hughes has been minting runs this Sheffield Shield season despite the misleading veneer of his idiosyncratic technique and unpublished head space. He is the direct replacement for Marsh.
Henriques goes in for the all-rounder James Faulkner, yet they are not peas from the same pod. The leftie Faulkner is more a bowler who bats, and Henriques a genuine top-six batsmen who bowls usefully.
Will Henriques find himself pressing for Shane Watson’s role? Watson is under pressure after a modest Ashes and is even-money to pull any one of a dozen muscles.
Henriques’ disciplined batting in the Indian debacle and good form in shield cricket has seen him recognised. Alex Doolan usually bats high in the order so maybe a trip down to six in a direct swap with his Tasmanian captain, the dropped George Bailey, is unlikely.
Michael Clarke has an opportunity to slip Watto down to six, giving him more R&R after an innings in the field rather than getting him padded up and potentially back at the crease and stressing the body.
So Doolan at three, Watson at six and Henriques breathing down his neck. There is an opportunity for sea change after the eclectic top-order batting performances of the home summer.
Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel aren’t going to bowl as poorly as the English bowlers did. Haddin is due to fail and it would be nice if he could do so with 400 or more on the board.
The immediate challenge is for batsmen to move out of the mode of playing a shot at anything within swinging range and damning the consequences into red-ball discipline and patience mode. That is not as simple as hitting the reset button. The bowlers need to have enough miles in their legs to get through five days rather than 1½ hours.
As is the way in contemporary schedules, there is time for only one tour match before the Test. Bowlers may get the quantity of overs without necessarily achieving quality, but batsmen who get an unplayable one early or a poor decision will be severely underdone.
It will be two months since the last Sheffield Shield match and five weeks since the end of the Sydney Test. The modern player has to adapt or be rotated, something Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle have grown unaccustomed to.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.