Sadly in the lead up the gloss has been taken off the series with a focus over the inadequacy of only 3 Tests scheduled for a clash that has such a history with a lot of interest attached to it. Blind Freddy could tell you that 5 Tests should be cast in stone when these two hated rivals lock horns, but sadly the International Cricket Council is not only blind in seeing the desires of fans, but also deaf to their calls and mute to caring about even addressing them.
Money is their only motivator, so instead of this series starting in sun drenched Australia in mid October to fit in an extra 2 Tests as well as accommodating South Africa's justifiably demand for a mandatory Boxing Day Test at home. Instead we have been made to endure 2 months of T20 Tournaments that have all the appeal of a dead toenail to traditional fans.
Pfft!- Cricket in the 21st Century.....where is Doctor Who to pick me up and drop me back in the 80's!
Enough of this old man whining, I better zip it and look at the series
The venues for this series put a real focus on the importance on the 1st Test at the GABBA in Brisbane. Due to the fact that it is a bowling friendly pitch that will almost certainly lead to a victory with both Teams being bowling strong. Of the other venues, this is my summation
Adelaide- A batting paradise where it is crucial a Team has a decent spinner to force victory on the latter days. With both Teams being very weak from a spin point of view it will be hard to get a result here
Perth- For the last 20 years, we hear annually how the WACA will return to 'its traditional super fast and bouncy heritage'. Which translated means 'fast' is really in relation to the scoring rate facilitated by the lightning outfield coupled with the true pitch, and then 'bouncy' is in reference to the batsmen jumping for joy at the prospect of batting on it
Assessing the Teams Batting
In truth looking at the Aussie batting you come to the conclusion that it is an accident waiting to happen with the only part of the top 6 that you have faith in is Michael Clarke. Especially when you take into account the high calibre attack that they are facing in this series
This accentuated when you look at the figures of the Aussie top 6 from 4 of their last 5 Tests series. With me having excluded the figures from the Indian series for I am sure most would agree they give a skewed view of reality when you take into account how paper thin the Indian attack was coupled with how disinterested their whole Team looked
Ed Cowan- 3 Tests, 6 innings, 152 runs, average 25.33, 1 50's
Dave Warner- 5 Tests, 10 innings, 324 runs, average 40.5, centuries 1 and 1 50
Shane Watson- 8 Tests, 15 innings, 375 runs, average 25, 0 centuries and 3 50's
Ricky Ponting- 9 Tests, 17 innings, 439 runs, average 25.82, 0 centuries and 3 50's
Mike Hussey- 10 Tests, 18 innings, 765 runs, average 42.50, 2 centuries and 3 50's
Can you really see any of these finding form against the likes of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander?
It could be helped it the Selectors saw sense and realised that Shane Watson is a bunny against the new ball and moved him away from the top 3 to 5 where it better suits his attacking style.
Then embraced the Age of theory in the game of your best playing batting at 3- aka Michael Clarke!
On the plus side is the batting potential of Matthew Wade at 7 with the Keeper/batsmen showing every indication that he could be a very valuable contributor with the bat.
Away from the main Team of equal concern for the Aussies is the appalling lack of depth in batting in the Country at present with Phil Hughes being viewed as the next cab off the rank......
That in itself tells a tale about Australia's flimsy batting resources
It is a line up that is so reliant on Michael Clarke's Mastery to hold it up. With the rest being a mash of diminished veterans or players struggling with the demands of the Test game. Then the batting reserves are non existent.
Only Wade at 7 is a ray of sunshine through the gloom
The South African batting has always been very strong supported by high pedigree pillars such as Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and recently excellent youngsters like Hashim Amla and A B DeVilliers.
But if anything it has been made stronger of late with the moving of A.B.DeVilliers to the Keepers role. Many South African fans are opposed to this move for it takes away from the young phenoms batting, which might be true to a certain extent, but the Team is never about the individual. Meaning with AB keeping, it has allowed JP Duminy to be included in an all rounder role with everyone aware of the pedigree in his batting as seen in him averaging 90.33 in his return series against England. But his spin bowling is very much under rated with it having the potential to be very handy in the Test arena
Promisingly for the Team has been the form of Alviro Petersen, who in 2012 has shown that he could be a long term answer for one of the Teams greatest needs in an opening partner for Graeme Smith. His 182 against England in bowling friendly conditions at Leeds was of the highest class and well and truly shut up his many detractors.
Symbolically in 2012 all of the South African top 6 have scored centuries at some stage with the combined total amongst the group being 12 which is twice as many as their opposition in this series
Further accentuating the difference is all of the Aussie centuries were scored against the Indian bowling 'might', whereas South Africa's batting excelled against the excellent English attack in their beloved home conditions.
Rating- 8.5/ 10
Exceptional batting line up that with the move of DeVilliers to keeper has been made stronger with JP Duminy's inclusion in the line up. Then the improvement in weak links Alviro Petersen and Jacques Rudolph have been a huge fillip to the Team
Assessing the Teams Bowling
This is where Australia can really make this series interesting with them having a high class group of about 8 Test standard quick. If they had a spinner of any calibre you could mount a case that they could trouble the South African batting enough to even win the series providing their batting stood up
Sadly, they just have Nathan Lyon, who has a big heart, but little or no ability to trouble the high quality Saffer batsmen.
The potential new ball duo of James Pattinson and Pat Cummins has World Beaters written all over it and the back ups in skilled Veterans like Ben Hilfenhaus, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle complete an excellent attack.
A bolt from the blue in this series could be the left armer Mitchell Starc, who looks like he could be everything that we thought Mitchell Johnston could be. With him combining real pace with swing and throw in a lovely bit of nastiness to boot. In this series, do not be surprised if he announces himself as the next big thing in Test Cricket.
The one Ace that the Aussie have had up their sleeve for a while now in Shane Watson's deadly dangerous bowling skills. The South Africans will be a wake up too this time around after he mauled them with his mastery of reverse swing in the previous series averaging 12.33. You can know that the South Africans will treat him with the highest of respect and try to see him off making this battle one of the key factors in the series.
How the Aussie attack lines up will be a key talking point in regards to whether they go with all pace or include Nathan Lyon's uninspiring spin for the sake of having a spinner. Which can be justified with the perceived weakness in the South African batting against off spin, but can you really see Lyon getting the likes of Amla, Kallis, and Smith out?
Very fine pace attack with real variety in it that will be made better by bowling in home confines. Expect to see them Test the exceptional South African batting and on occasion in the series over match this regal line up.
Tread warily around Shane Watson and his Masterful use of reverse swing..............!
Any attack that has the name Dale Steyn in it demands respect with the great South African being one of the best bowlers in the games history.
This might sound strange and might offend a few, but in my view the man known as 'The Steyn Remover' has been one of the disappointments of 2012. With him taking on a mortal look with just 27 wickets at 29.22.
Which has been a shocker for a bowler that has destroyed batting line ups with his skill and fire for many a moon....
The scary thing for the Aussies is that in this series with him being fired up by the occasion you can see him lifting and morphing onto that immortal plain again.
Vernon Philander has made Steyn's drop in form be overlooked with him being truly exceptional. It seems almost surreal that in his 10 Test career Philander has taken 63 wickets at the absurdly low average of 15.96 with batsmen being over matched by his laser like accuracy and relentless lines.
Against the Aussie top 6 that have a real love affair with ODI type techniques/ temperaments you can see Vernon enjoying his time Down Under.
Once you see off these two, it is not as though you can relax with the pace and unnerving bounce of Morne Morkel to contend with who can be on a par with the previous two when he puts everything together.
Then King Kallis still plays a crucial role with his very head medium fast bowling that has seen him adopt a more defensive role in the attack to allows the others to attack with short sharp spells from the other end.
Away from the pace corps you have Imran Tahir with his rather amateurish leg spin offerings
A Leggie that has a lethal Googly, but is undone by his lack of command which sees him always offer up a buffet ball to batsmen alleviating any pressure he might build up.
You can see him playing in all the Test for the balance he gives, but you have little faith in him being a factor in proceeding. Rather a cameo type that sneaks a wicket here or there
Excellent all round attack
I cannot get past the fragility that stands out like dogs balls in the Aussie batting line up.
Which will be truly blown away by the South African attack
Meaning you might see the excellent Australian attack trouble the South African batting, but all their good work undone by their weak batting.
Meaning a 2 nil series win for South Africa with a draw in Adelaide