Generally speaking, Australia plays well in South Africa. Here in Capetown at the Newlands Ground, Australia has dominated winning nine of the eleven Tests. The most recent, however, was the innings defeat South Africa handed Australia a few years ago when Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke got first innings ducks whilst some bloke called Katich topped scored before Prince, Kallis and deVilliers notched centuries in six hundred large. Had Johnson not made a five 6 heavy maiden hundred batting at eight, it would have looked far worse.
|Ponting - should I stay or should I go?|
The South Africans will chose a capable bowling line up. Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn are the best new ball bowlers in cricket, although this wicket will only offer demon assistance on the first day. If they and Tsotsobe get the best of the conditions, they will be quick and deceptive through the air, regardless of the wicket softening. Australia's batsmen don't like quick lefties, which will likely swing the selection in Tsotsobe direction and leave Vernon Philander on the boundary. Its the selection of leg spinner Imran Tahir that creates the most interest. At 32 and with nearly 600 first class wickets and good performances in ODI's, he has earned his place and may well place the shoes on the other feet of the Australians, who so often taunted the Springboks with Shane Warne's skills.
|Leg spinner Imran Tahir|
The Australians have a reasonable attack but one with large question marks before it. Ryan Harris will surely lead it and based on lead up form, Mitchell Johnson will be given the new ball again in a calculated gamble. Peter Siddle should prevail over the medium tedium of Trent Copeland whose predictably is short of a jagging off cutter which made Glen McGrath so dangerous and would be murdered by the South Africans. No one in first class cricket in the land of Oz loves that Baggy Green as much as Siddle and he'll die before relenting and that's the attitude Clarke needs on the field with him. Nathan Lyon will be the spin option. He's an attacking off spinner, with loop and good variations of pace. He turns the ball sharply too but there must be worry at what Jaques Kallis and AB deVilliers will do to him.
|Johnson in action|
It may be a dangerous place this Newlands pitch. If all the other variables weren't enough, the storms which roll off the imposing Table Mountain my turn aside the exploits of mere mortals over the next five days and bring their own wishes to bear, at the very least by changing the conditions.
The one last area of edge for the Australians will be their skipper. Michael Clarke has done some clever, inspired things in just four Test matches in charge. His opposite number is a shrewd operator, well versed in the dark arts and prepared to place everything on the line. Their battle for supremacy may decide more things than their batsmen or bowling attacks.
A fine challenge for the Australians but South Africa to win.