Unbeaten and unable to win: South Africa

Unbeaten in 5 years the Proteas exude strength and brutality, but history reveals they might be unable to win against Australia. South Africa are the best Test team in the world. They have not lost a Test series since 2009, but they haven’t beaten a touring Australian team at home since 1970*. This is their best opportunity and perhaps the last one this side will have before age and form dissolve them.

The last team to defeat South Africa in a Test series was Australia. The two played out a brilliant series in Feb-March 2009, which Australia won 2-1. Australia’s win was partly set up by destructive bowling from Mitchell Johnson and aggressive quick-fire batting by Phil Hughes. Since then both players have been in and out of the side suffering from undulating form. Six months ago it would have been ludicrous to suggest these two would be on this tour. Johnson is a certainty to play tonight, Hughes is not.

I’d like to see Moises Henriques included for Watson, but it’s likely that Shaun Marsh and Alex Doolan will play. Both average in the mid 30s at First Class level. If you can understand Cricket Australia’s selection logic you’re a better person than I – Marsh is ranked 30odd in Shield runs this season. He scored 60 in a T20 and was rushed into the Test side. Reasoning Doolan’s selection is easier. Australia are desperate to discover a genuine number 3. Doolan is one, but is he good enough for Test cricket?

Punters across the cricket world are salivating ahead of the pace battle. Unleashing hellfire fury at startled batsmen on hard, bouncy green top wickets is the stuff that gets any fast-bowling enthusiast shaking with excitement. I’m anticipating two pace bowling batteries firing high quality ordinance, but am sure that batting will decide the series. How will Australia’s slightly shaky top order respond to Steyn, Philander and Morkel? What will a reshuffled South African batting order do to cover the loss of cricket’s greatest ever all-round player, Jaques Kallis?

The first Test at Centurion begins tonight Australian time. As previously stated I’m tipping a 1-1 draw and a savage exchange. Perhaps adding to the excitement will be the status of the stump microphones, which for South Africa’s last home series against India were permanently left on for the pleasure of television viewers. Naturally this might have a moderating effect on the players’ conversations, but plenty of interesting stuff was sprayed about in that series. This one should be no exception.

I love the needle, crave the battle and am relishing the opportunity to escape from life’s nagging realities for a few hours each night to consume this contest.

* It is noted that Australia did not tour South Africa between 1970 and 1994 due to apartheid. Australia’s first post-apartheid tour occurred in 1994. That series ended in a 1-1 draw. Two “rebel” tours occurred in 1985 and 1986 led by Kim Hughes. Both tours won 1-0 by South Africa were not sanctioned by cricket’s governing body in Australia.

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