Is Australia's rebuilding phase over?
by Asher Wilson

Scorecard:Australia v South Africa
Event:South Africa in Australia 2012/13

DateLine: 8th November 2012


Australia v South Africa
First Test 2012
Match Preview


The best Test side in the world, South Africa, venture to the "Gabba" for the first time in forty years to face an Australian team out to prove that they are rejuvenated and their "rebuilding phase" is over. Arguably the two best fast bowling attacks in world cricket come face to face on a Brisbane pitch that has its fair share of bounce and swing. Due to this, many players, coaches and journalists have tipped the batsmen to make a real difference with questions hanging over the Australian top order.


Four ICC points separate the top three Test teams in the world rankings. South Africa defeated England in August to ascend to the top while Australia sits at third. Simply put, the winner of this series takes up the ICC Test Championship Mace. South Africa have the early advantage with the mental edge in winning the last series in Australia in 2008 (2-1) and having drawn the last series played in South Africa (1-1) where Australia were embarrassingly bowled out for 47. Can South Africa be the first team since 1988 to defeat the Aussies at the Brisbane fortress?


Over the past twenty years on a Gabba pitch the Australian fast bowlers have had a field day and the batsmen have made short work of foreign bowlers. If history sides the Aussies we can expect a strong bowling performance from the quicks with James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc the young guns to watch out for. Similarly, if Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey can continue the middle order momentum and rejuvenation that Australia has seen, they will be able to match the firepower that this touring South African team boasts.


Australian's top order has been under much scrutiny. It will only take one loose shot from David Warner, a lapse in concentration from Ed Cowan and the lack of experience of Rob Quiney to possibly start an Australian collapse reminiscent of Newlands in 2011. Similarly, Matthew Wade must perform in order to validate why he was selected over the inform Brad Haddin. At present we believe that Wade cannot boast as much with the bat or gloves as Haddin can and will need to earn his spot in this game. If Nathan Lyon is played he will need to bowl smart to the likes of Amla, Smith and Kallis if he is going to take wickets, otherwise he might prove expensive.


Michael Clarke needs to lead the way as Captain like he did last summer with a triple and double century. If he can do this with the bat then Australia will be successful once more.


Mitchell Starc has not performed that well in his Test career to date, however if he is picked I believe he will be the crux of the Australian attack. The young left armer has been in superb short form and is expected to continue this over the next five days.


Rob Quiney will be under pressure to score at least one maiden fifty during this Test. If Rob Quiney scores runs and Ed Cowan doesn’t, he may well face the axe when Shane Watson returns from injury. Though he has not played particularly poorly but has not amassed as many runs as he had done in Sheffield Shield prior to selection.


South Africa's batting line-up on the other hand is reliable, one can be quite confident that at least one of their players will score a 100 in the first innings. Smith is class, Amla is amazing, Kallis is immortal, De Villiers is superb and Duminy made the breakthrough in the last 2008 series after being out in the cold for a long time. His form had dwindled and at one point was dropped for a significant amount of time, however, he is back and close to career best form just in time to tame the Australian pitches once more.


Their bowling attack is all finesse. Steyn is Steyn, Philander has put up statistics that defy the imagination, Morkel is consistent and Tahir will bamboozle any lower order batsman. South Africa even on a bad day will be strong, and there is no denying that.


AB de Villiers with the gloves takes away a brilliant fielder from the side in the covers, and slips but has also severely tarnished his batting average from over 50 to 30. This can give Australia some opportunity to get their foot in the door. de Villiers, to keep the gloves that is… I suspect that if his form and consistency continues to dwindle a specialist keeper may be selected at the expense of Duiminy, Rudolph or Petersen.


Imran Tahir is not nearly as devastating as he should be to top order batsmen, we might see him being punished Monty Panesar style by Michael Clarke and Matthew Wade. The question is if Imran Tahir, with the amount of wickets he takes and who he dismisses is needed? If de Lange wasn’t injured the selectors would have most likely played him, especially for the Perth Test. We know that Steyn will be viciously quick and on target. I will also be interested to see how Philander will play in Australia.


The Brisbane pitch has a lot in it for the bowlers. Especially in the morning, it will be humid with some wind as well, which means that the bowlers will receive plenty of assistance. The team winning the toss may choose to bat though since rain is expected to disrupt the game over the coming days.


Australia: MJ Clarke, EJM Cowan, BW Hilfenhaus, MEK Hussey, NM Lyon, JL Pattinson, RT Ponting, RJ Quiney, PM Siddle, MA Starc, MS Wade, DA Warner, SR Watson


South Africa: HM Amla, AB de Villiers, F du Plessis, Imran Tahir, JH Kallis, RK Kleinveldt, M Morkel, AN Petersen, RJ Peterson, VD Philander, JA Rudolph, GC Smith, DW Steyn, TL Tsolekile

(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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