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Australia-SA: The battle for number one

687   //    10 Nov 2012, 10:25 IST

The highly anticipated test series between Australia and South Africa has started on the 9th of November. The reality is that this series is comprised of only three Tests but it could have the intensity of a longer contest as South Africa are involved in their fourth battle for being the No. 1 test team since 2010. This time, South Africa are the title-holders and their opposition the challengers. This is the South Africa’s tenth tour in Australia. The Proteas once won a test series in Australia. On the Down Under tour, South Africa are looking favourites to win.  It could be the last tour of great all-rounder Kallis in the land of the kangaroos. So he would certainly want to leave it on a high note. Both teams have met in 88 test matches, out of which, SA won 19 and lost 50 matches. Whereas, out of the 35 played in Australia, SA was able to win 7 and lost 20 matches.

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure. Success and failure are never final. Australian cricket is being criticized all around the world. After the retirement of the some legends, undoubtedly, Australian Cricket is going through a rebuilding phase and will want to seek further proof of their rejuvenation. It is just a cricketing cycle where a country has some of the greatest players in the world and they keep winning, so their team appears to be the best. When the team is doing well, it doesn’t matter, but when the results are not on your side, things begin to look ugly.

The Proteas proved that teams don’t grow strong without a struggle. Under the coaching of Gary Kirsten, SA got the No.1 rank in the longest format. One of the best bowlers of all time and the Proteas’ bowling coach, Allan Donald called his country’s current pace attack the best he has seen. Most of the cricketing stalwarts’ and followers’ attention has centred on the quality of the South African pace attack, spearheaded  by Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, and how Australia’s rookie top order will deal with them. AB de Villiers will be eager to prove that as wicket-keeper, he can still make the kinds of scores that marked him as one of the world’s best and most dangerous batsmen. Hashim Amla is looking impregnable. Graeme Smith’s side is settled and well-groomed. Star-studded South Africa looks formidable, like the Australians of the last decade.

Rob Quiney of Australia receives his baggy green from Allan Border during day one of the First Test match between Australia and South Africa at The Gabba on November 9, 2012

Amid a sea of new faces in Oz squad, James Pattinson can be the danger man for Proteas’s experienced batsmen. A young bowler with aggression and raw pace might just surprise the South African batsmen. Inexperienced top order batsmen and Shane Watson’s injury are the main niggles of host side. Rob “Bobby” Quiney will be making his debut as baggy green cap’s holder 429. Surely, Rob will be wanting to grab this opportunity with both hands and cement his place in the side. Experience always comes in handy in the long run and Ponting and Hussey have proved that in last India Down Under tour.

This series is the contenst between the former and current World No.1 test teams. South Africa will retain the top spot on the ICC Test rankings with a drawn series. Australia will claim the top spot from them with a series win. Finally, the battle for No.1 in test cricket will be over in the first week of December. The team that will remain ahead in the close contests between bat and bowl will win this trophy. But remember, fielding skills play such an important role in the game and often prove to be the difference between winning and losing. For claiming the No.1 tag, both teams’ players will sledge and still want to kill each other on the field but have a beer and chat about hair off the field. This series will show the clash of two great teams with sportsmanship.

After all, some of the best batsmen of modern era – Ricky Ponting (13,348) and Jacques Kallis (12,641) will all be playing in this series. Kallis is fourth on the all-time run-scoring list and the only all-rounder to have scored over 11,000 runs and taken more than 250 wickets. It will be interesting to see whether Ponting  surpasses Kallis’s record for the second highest number of test centuries, and inches closer to the little master’s milestone of 51 test centuries. For cricket fans, it is a great pleasure to see the two batting maestros on a single turf.

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