With the ‘irrelevant’ Champions League done and dusted, purists can now look forward to some serious action. Come November 9, Australia take on South Africa at the Gabba in Brisbane. The series promises to be delicious, just like most of their previous duels. They have been involved in two of the most intriguing test matches in recent times, when they last met – around the same time last year – at Cape Town and Johannesburg respectively. The series fittingly ended 1-1.
This series is crucial for both captains. For the South African captain, Graeme Smith, a series win would mean they stay on top of the ICC ratings, a spot they had reclaimed from England in August this year. For Michael Clarke, a win would just be the booster shot this team so badly needs. It would also be an indicator of how much the team has progressed under the 31-year-old after he took over the reins from Ricky Ponting in April last year.
On paper, the visitors look a more balanced side. Their batsmen are in form and their bowling has variety. Hashim Amla is the man in form and he would look to continue his good run in Australia. Kallis would like to finish the series on a high, as this might well be his last tour Down Under. While Jacques Rudolph and JP Duminy add stability to the middle order, the rather indifferent form of AB DeVilliers is a cause for concern. Burdened with the responsibility of keeping wickets, his form has dipped somewhat, and Siddle and co. would definitely target him early on.
That Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel are a threat, is well known, but the bowler to watch out for is Vernon Philander. His rise has been emphatic, and no bowler in international cricket has grown so much in stature as Philander has. Quickest to take 50 wickets, Philander makes up for his lack of pace with his pinpoint accuracy, control and deft seam movement.
The hosts on the other hand, are grappling with batting woes. The top six have failed to click. Shane Watson, a lynchpin in their batting is injured, and to make matters worse, they have not played a test match since April. David Warner and Quiney at the top of the order will look to attack from the onset, but the hosts will look to Ed Cowan and Ricky Ponting to play the role of sheet anchor.
The pitch at the Gabba has generally favoured the quicks, but this time around, Clarke might induct spinner Lyon, while Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Pattinson would form the pace trio.
Whatever be the outcome, brace yourself for one helluva roller coaster ride this summer as Proteas play their first test at the Gabba since 1963.
Let the games begin!
Australia (likely): Cowan, Warner, Quiney, Ponting, Clarke (captain), Hussey, Wade (wk), Siddle, Pattinson, Hilfenhaus, Lyon.
South Africa (likely): Smith (captain), Petersen, Amla, Kallis, Duminy, Devilliers, Rudolph, Philander, Morkel, Steyn, Tahir.
Date: 9-13 November
Venue: Gabba, Brisbane
Start time: 10:00 AM (local), 12:00 AM (GMT), 5:30 AM (IST)Published 08 Nov 2012, 22:17 IST